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A reevaluation of the anatomy of the jaw-closing system in the extant coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae

Abstract

The coelacanth Latimeria is the only extant representative of the Actinistia, a group of sarcopterygian fishes that originated in the Devonian. Moreover, it is the only extant vertebrate in which the neurocranium is divided into an anterior and a posterior portion that articulate by means of an intracranial joint. This joint is thought to be highly mobile, allowing an elevation of the anterior portion of the skull during prey capture. Here we provide a new description of the skull and jaw-closing system in Latimeria chalumnae in order to better understand its skull mechanics during prey capture. Based on a dissection and the CT scanning of an adult coelacanth, we provide a detailed description of the musculature and ligaments of the jaw system. We show that the m. adductor mandibulae is more complex than previously reported. We demonstrate that the basicranial muscle inserts more anteriorly than has been described previously, which has implications for its function. Moreover, the anterior insertion of the basicranial muscle does not correspond to the posterior tip of the tooth plate covering the parasphenoid, questioning previous inferences made on fossil coelacanths and other sarcopterygian fishes. Strong ligaments connect the anterior and the posterior portions of the skull at the level of the intracranial joint, as well as the notochord and the catazygals. These observations suggest that the intracranial joint is likely to be less mobile than previously thought and that its role during feeding merits to be reexamined.

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Acknowledgments

Florent Goussard (UMR 7207 CNRS-MNHN-UPMC, MNHN, Paris, France) and Miguel Garcia Sanz (UMS 2700 MNHN-CNRS, MNHN, Paris, France) are thanked for their expertise in imaging the coelacanth at the CT scan facility AST-RX, Plate-forme d'accès scientifique à la tomographie à rayons X du MNHN, as well as for their help in processing the raw CT scan data. Elizabeth R. Dumont (University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA) is thanked for inviting one of us (HD) to work in her lab on the coelacanth CT scan data, and Dan Pulaski (University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA) is thanked for his help and advises on using Studio Geomagic. Damien Germain (UMR 7207 CNRS-MNHN-UPMC, MNHN, Paris, France) is thanked for his help in using the software MIMICS. Philippe Janvier (UMR 7207 CNRS-MNHN-UPMC, MNHN, Paris, France) is thanked for his useful comments during the preparation of this manuscript. We thank Céline Bens and Tarik Afoukati of the Collections de Pièces anatomiques en Fluides of the MNHN, Paris, France. The visit of HD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst was supported by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Fellowship for Graduate Student Travel. This work is a contribution to the ANR TERRES Programme (ANR-2010-BLAN-607-03).

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Correspondence to Hugo Dutel.

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Communicated by: Sven Thatje

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Dutel, H., Herrel, A., Clément, G. et al. A reevaluation of the anatomy of the jaw-closing system in the extant coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae . Naturwissenschaften 100, 1007–1022 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-013-1104-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-013-1104-8

Keywords

  • Coelacanth
  • Skull
  • Jaw-closing system
  • Intracranial joint