Morphology of the brain and sense organs in the snailfish Paraliparis devriesi: Neural convergence and sensory compensation on the Antarctic shelf

Joseph T. Eastman, Michael J. Lannoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The Antarctic snailfish Paraliparis devriesi (Liparidae) is an epibenthic species, inhabiting depths of 500-650 m in McMurdo Sound. Liparids are the most speciose fish family in the Antarctic Region. We examine the gross morphology and histology of the sense organs and brain of P. devriesi and provide a phyletic perspective by comparing this morphology to that of four scorpaeniforms and of sympatric perciform notothenioids. The brain has numerous derived features, including well-developed olfactory lamellae with thick epithelia, large olfactory nerves and bulbs, and large telencephalic lobes. The retina contains only rods and exhibits a high convergence ratio (82:1). Optic nerves are small and nonpleated. The tectum is small. The corpus of the cerebellum is large, whereas the valvula is vestigial. The rhombencephalon and bulbospinal junction are extended and feature expanded vagal and spinal sensory lobes as well as hypertrophied dorsal horns and funiculi in the rostral spinal cord. The lower lobes of the pectoral fins have taste buds and expanded somatosensory innervation. Although the cephalic lateral line and anterior lateral line nerve are well developed, the trunk lateral line and posterior lateral line nerve are reduced. Near-field mechanoreception by trunk neuromasts may have been compromised by the watery, gelatinous subdermal extracellular matrix employed as a buoyancy mechanism. The expanded somatosensory input to the pectoral fin may compensate for the reduction in the trunk lateral line. The brains of P. devriesi and sympatric notothenioids share well-developed olfactory systems, an enlarged preoptic-hypophyseal axis, and subependymal expansions. Although the functional significance is unknown, the latter two features are correlated with habitation of the deep subzero waters of the Antarctic shelf.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-236
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Antarctic
  • Brain
  • Evolution
  • Liparidae
  • Paraliparis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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