Neuromast topography in urodele amphibians

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


Using scanning electron microscopy I determined neuromast number and orientation, neuromast sensory epithelial surface area and relative position, hair cell number per neuromast, hair cell size, and stitch formation in aquatic urodeles. All aquatic salamanders examined (34 specimens, 20 species, 16 genera, nine families) had neuromasts. The basic pattern of neuromast organization was similar in all species, consisting of a single row of circumorbital (supraorbital + infraorbital) neuromasts and anteriorly along the snout two rows of nasal and three rows of maxillary neuromasts. Nasal and maxillary groups consisted of orthogonally oriented neuromasts. Variation in most parameters occured at every taxonomic level, between individuals of the same species, and even on opposite sides of the same individual. Among species, primary neuromast number ranged from 94 to 150, with plethodontids having higher numbers. Despite high intraspecific variation, neuromast number fell into a sufficiently narrow range to be useful systematically. Hair cell number per neuromast was greater in species with larger animals. Hair cell number per neuromast and number of primary neuromasts did not increase with growth. In some species primary neuromasts divided to form secondary neuromasts (together termed a stitch). Two types of stitches‐transverse and longitudinal‐were formed. Transverse stitches were characteristic of ambystomatids and cryptobranchids, longitudinal stitches were characteristic of proteids and salamandrids. Because transverse stitches are also characteristic of anurans, this trait may be the generalized condition in at least these two amphibian orders. With stitch formation total number of hair cells on the dorsal surface of the head of these animals can be increased over tenfold to almost 20,000. Ecologically, lentic forms tended to form transverse stitches, while lotic forms had single neuromasts in epidermal pits or longitudinal stitches in epidermal grooves. Lotic forms also tended to have more primary neuromasts and more nasal and maxillary neuromasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-263
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology

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