Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 10, pp 2011–2020 | Cite as

Inception of formation and early morphogenesis of the bacterial light organ of the sea urchin cardinalfish, Siphamia versicolor

  • Paul V. Dunlap
  • Yutaka Kojima
  • Shigeo Nakamura
  • Masaru Nakamura
Original Paper


The cardinalfish Siphamia versicolor (Perciformes: Apogonidae) forms a bioluminescent symbiosis with the marine luminous bacterium Photobacterium mandapamensis, harboring the bacteria in a ventral, disc-shaped light organ and using the bacterial light apparently for counterillumination and attracting prey. Little definitive information has been available on the developmental and microbiological events surrounding the initiation of symbiosis, a critical stage in the life history of the fish, in S. versicolor or any of the many other species of bacterially luminous fish. To identify the stage at which light organ formation begins, to determine the origin of cells forming the light organ, and to characterize its bacterial colonization status during development, early developmental stages of S. versicolor obtained and reared from wild-caught mouth-brooding males were examined with histological and microbiological methods. A light organ primordium was not evident in embryos, post-embryos, or pre-release larvae, whereas the light organ began to form within 1 day of release of full-term pre-flexion larvae from the mouths of male fish. Analysis of post-release larvae revealed that the light organ arises from a proliferation and differentiation of intestinal epithelial cells, and that it quickly develops structural complexity, including the formation of chambers and gaps contiguous with the intestinal epithelium. However, the nascent light organ remained uncolonized by the symbiotic bacteria through several days of post-release development, even in the presence of high numbers of the symbiotic bacteria. These results demonstrate that the inception of light organ formation in S. versicolor occurs independently of its symbiotic bacteria and that receptivity to bacterial colonization apparently requires substantial post-release development of the light organ. Larvae therefore most likely acquire their symbiotic bacteria from seawater, during or shortly after the transition from the pre-flexion to the flexion developmental stage.


Great Barrier Reef Early Developmental Stage Symbiotic Bacterium Light Organ Male Fish 
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.



We thank D. Sorenson and M. Dzaman, University of Michigan, for assistance with histology, R. Murata, Tropical Biosphere Research Center (TBRC), University of the Ryukyus, for guidance in histological methods, and R. Suwa, M. Alam, Y. Kobayashi, and T. Sagawa (TBRC) for technical support. Support was provided by the University of the Ryukyus via a Visiting Professorship to P. Dunlap. This study is a contribution from Sesoko Station, Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul V. Dunlap
    • 1
  • Yutaka Kojima
    • 2
  • Shigeo Nakamura
    • 2
  • Masaru Nakamura
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Tropical Biosphere Research CenterUniversity of the RyukyusMotobuJapan

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