Vascular organization of the head and respiratory organs of the air‐breathing catfish, Heteropneustes fossilis

K. R. Olson, J. S.D. Munshi, T. K. Ghosh, J. Ojha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Light and scanning electron microscopy of vascular replicas from the facultative air‐breathing fish Heteropneustes fossilis show modifications in the macrocirculation of the respiratory organs and systemic circulation, whereas, gill microcirculation is similar to that found in typical water‐breathing fish. Three and sometimes four ventral aortae arise directly from the bulbus. The most ventral vessel supplies the first pair of arches. Dorsal to this another aorta supplies the second gill arches, and a third, dorsal to, and larger than the other two, supplies the third and fourth arches and the air sacs. Occasionally a small vessel that may be the remnant of a primitive aortic arch arises from the first ventral aorta and proceeds directly to the mandibular region without perfusing gill tissue. The air sac is perfused by a large‐diameter extension of the afferent branchial artery of the fourth gill arch and its circulation is in parallel with the gill arches. Blood drains from the air sac into the fourth arch epibranchial artery. A number of arteries also provide direct communication between the efferent air sac artery and the dorsal aorta. All four gill arches are well developed and contain respiratory (lamellar) and nonrespiratory (interlamellar and nutrient) networks common to gills of water‐breathing fish. Air sac lamellae are reduced in size. The outer 30% of the air sac lamellar sinusoids are organized into thoroughfare channels; the remaining vasculature, normally embedded in the air sac parenchyma, is discontinuous. A gill‐type interlamellar vasculature is lacking in the air sac circulation. Despite the elaborate development of the ventral aortae, there is little other anatomical evidence to suggest that gill and air sac outflow are separated and that dorsal aortic oxygen tensions are maintained when the gills are in a hypoxic environment. Physiological adjustments to hypoxic water conditions probably include temporal regulation of gill and air sac perfusion to be effective, if indeed they are so.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-179
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology

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