Anatomy and histology of the brain and sense organs of the Antarctic eel cod Muraenolepis microps (gadiformes; muraenolepididae)

Joseph T. Eastman, Michael J. Lannoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Brain regions, cranial nerves, and sense organs in Muraenolepis microps, an Antarctic gadiform fish, were examined to determine which features could be attributed to a gadiform ancestry and which to habitation of Antarctic waters. We found that the central nervous system and sense organs are well developed, showing neither substantial regression nor hypertrophy. A detailed drawing of the brain and cranial nerves is provided. The rostral position of the olfactory bulbs and telencephalic size and lobation are common for the order. The optic tectum and corpus cerebelli are smaller than in most other gadiforms. The shape of the corpus cerebelli is not distinctive among gadiforms. The lateral line region is moderately well-developed, but not hypertrophied to the extent seen in deep-sea gadiforms. As is the case in gadids possessing barbels and elongated pelvic rays, Muraenolepis has well-developed facial lobes, although these are smaller and more laterally positioned. The vagal lobes are deeply placed in the rhombencephalon and project into the fourth ventricle. The brain of Muraenolepis resembles that of a phyletically derived gadoid, especially a phycid, more than it resembles the brain of a phyletically basal macrourid. Two histological features of the diencephalon of Muraenolepis appear to be unique among gadiforms: a well-organized thalamic central medial nucleus and subependymal expansions. Muraenolepis has a pure rod retina like many deep-sea species but lacks the superimposed layers of rod outer segments. The histology of the nonvisual sense organs, especially the olfactory and external taste systems, are well-developed in Muraenolepis but not hypertrophied. We relate our findings to what is known about neural morphology in other gadiforms and in phyletically distant notothenioids and liparids that are sympatric with Muraenolepis on the Antarctic shelf. The only feature that reflects an Antarctic existence is the diencephalic subependymal expansions, which within notothenioids mirror the habitation of cold waters and have been found in every Antarctic species examined to date. Although the waters of the Antarctic shelf are cold, dark, and deep, brain and sense organ morphology in Muraenolepis are remarkably free of extreme specialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-50
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Brain morphology and histology
  • Sense organ histology
  • Subependymal expansions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Biology
  • Anatomy

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