The evolution of the amphibian lateral line system and its bearing on amphibian phylogeny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


In modern amphibians that are aquatic the lateral line system is organized, by order, as follows: caecilians have electroreceptive ampullary organs and single rows of mechanoreceptive neuromast organs; generalized anurans have single rows of neuromasts that divide in a transverse plane to form secondary neuromasts or stitches, they do not have ampullary organs; generalized urodeles have ampullary organs, transverse stitches, and double or triple rows of neuromasts. Fossil evidence indicates that early amphibians had both ampullary organs and single rows of neuromasts embedded in bone. With time, receptors became epidermal in all three orders. Modern caecilians have retained the primitive receptor arrangement. I propose that the common ancestor of anurans and urodeles had transverse stitches, and that this character allies these two groups. Subsequent to the anuranurodele split, anurans lost their ampullary organs, perhaps concomitant with developing specializations for herbivory. Urodeles developed orthogonal neuromast couplets und triplets. In modern anurans und urodeles, transverse stitches are correlated with pond dwelling, while ampullary organs are correlated with carnivory, suggesting that the anuran‐urodele ancestor(s) was a (were) pond‐dwelling carnivore(s).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-134
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Amphibian phylogeny
  • Ampullary organs
  • Lateral line system
  • Neuromast organs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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