, Volume 104, Issue 6, pp 365–372 | Cite as

Morphology and histology of the anterior dorsal fin of Gaidropsarus mediterraneus (Pisces Teleostei), a specialized sensory organ

  • K. Kotrschal
  • M. Whitear
  • H. Adam


The morphology and fine structure of the vibratile anterior dorsal fin of the rockling Gaidropsarus mediterraneus are described. 60–80 fin rays project as a fringe from a reduced fin web; their lateral movement maintains the fin in almost constant rapid undulation, at a frequency of 3–4 beats per second. The fin can be laid back and with-drawn into a groove. Erector and depressor muscles, which are histologically distinct, move each ray. The fin support is modified, incorporating elastic cartilage, and enclosed in a capsule of collagenous connective tissue. The epidermis at the frontal and caudal aspect of each ray contains numerous receptor cells, over 100,000 per mm2, which have an apical microvillus and synaptic connections with nerve fibres. The recurrent facial nerve sends a major branch to the dorsal fins, which is joined by dorsal ramuli of spinal nerves. It is calculated that there are three to six million receptor cells on the vibratile fin and in the epidermis of the dorsal groove, in individuals of average size. Taste buds do not occur in the skin of the groove, contrary to a previous report, nor on the vibratile fin rays, although they are present on the prominent most anterior fin ray and elsewhere on the fins and barbels. The undulatory motion of the fin draws sea water towards and through the vibratile rays and backwards as a perceptible current. The fin constitutes a specific sensory organ, a water sampler, peculiar to this rockling and related species.


Facial Nerve Sensory Organ Spinal Nerve Apical Microvillus Undulatory Motion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Abbrevations used in figures




axial muscles


base of lepidotrichion


collagenous capsule


dorsal longitudinal canal


distal radial


dorsal ramulus of a spinal nerve


epidermal cell(s)


elastic cartilage


extracapsular branch of the recurrent facial nerve


fin membrane


fin ray


fin ray nerve


intracapsular branches of the recurrent facial nerve




nerve plexus


neural spine


proximal radial


receptor cell(s)


radial depressor muscle


radial erector muscle






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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Kotrschal
    • 1
  • M. Whitear
    • 2
  • H. Adam
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoologisches InstitutUniversität SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  2. 2.Zoology DepartmentUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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