Vasculature of the head and respiratory organs in an obligate air‐breathing fish, the swamp eel Monopterus (=Amphipnous) cuchia

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Methyl methacrylate vascular corrosion replicas were used to examine the macrocirculation in the head region and the microcirculation of respiratory vessels in the air‐breathing swamp eel Monopterus cuchia. Fixed respiratory tissue was also examined by SEM to verify capillary orientation. The respiratory and systemic circulations are only partially separated, presumably resulting in supply of mixed oxygenated and venous blood to the tissues. A long ventral aorta gives rise directly to the coronary and hypobranchial arteries. Two large shunt vessels connect the ventral aorta to the dorsal aorta, whereas the remaining ventral aortic flow goes to the respiratory islets and gills. Only two pairs of vestigial gill arches remain, equivalent to the second and third arches, yet five pairs of aortic arches were identified. Most aortic arches supply the respiratory islets. Respiratory islet capillaries are tightly coiled spirals with only a fraction of their total length in contact with the respiratory epithelium. Valve‐like endothelial cells delimit the capillary spirals and are unlike endothelial cells in other vertebrates. The gills are highly modified in that the lamellae are reduced to a single‐channel capillary with a characteristic three‐dimensional zig‐zag pathway. There are no arterio‐arterial lamellar shunts, although the afferent branchial artery supplying the gill arches also supplies respiratory islets distally. A modified interlamellar filamental vasculature is present in gill tissue but absent or greatly reduced in the respiratory islets. The macro‐ and micro‐circulatory systems of M. cuchia have been considerably modified presumably to accommodate aerial respiration. Some of these modifications involve retention of primitive vessel types, whereas others, especially in the microcirculation, incorporate new architectural designs some of whose functions are not readily apparent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-201
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Vasculature of the head and respiratory organs in an obligate air‐breathing fish, the swamp eel Monopterus (=Amphipnous) cuchia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this