Morphology and vascular anatomy of the gills of a primitive air-breathing fish, the bowfin (Amia calva)

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The morphology of the gills of a primitive air breather (Amia calva) was examined by light microscopy of semithin sections of gill filaments, and gill perfusion pathways were identified by scanning-electron microscopic analysis of corrosion replicas prepared by intravascular injection of methyl methacrylate. The arrangement of gill filaments and respiratory lamellae is similar to that of teleosts with the exception of an interfilamental support bar that is fused to the outer margins of lamellae on adjacent filaments. The prebranchial vasculature is also similar to that of teleosts, whereas the postbranchial circulation of arches III and IV is modified to permit selective perfusion of the air bladder. Gill filaments contain three distinct vascular systems: (1) the respiratory circulation which receives the entire cardiac output and perfuses the secondary lamellae; (2) a nutrient system that arises from the postlamellar circulation and perfuses filamental tissues; (3) a network of unknown function consisting of subepithelial sinusoids surrounding afferent and efferent margins of the filament and traversing the filament beneath the interlamellar epithelium. Prelamellar arteriovenous anastomoses (AVAs) are rare, postlamellar AVAs are common especially at the base of the filament where they form a dense network of small tortuous vessels before coalescing into a large filamental nutrient artery. Unlike in most teleosts, the outer vascular margins of the lamellae are embedded in the interfilamental support bar and become the sole vasculature of this tissue. Arterial-arterial lamellar bypass vessels were not observed. Previously observed decreases in oxygen transfer across the gills during air breathing can be explained only by redistribution of blood flow between or within the respiratory lamellae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-517
Number of pages19
JournalCell And Tissue Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 1981


  • Air breathing
  • Amia calva
  • Blood vessels
  • Gills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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