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Prehensile and non-prehensile tails among syngnathid fishes: what's the difference?
Neutens, C.; de Dobbelaer, B.; Claes, P.; Adriaens, D. (2017). Prehensile and non-prehensile tails among syngnathid fishes: what's the difference? Zoology (Jena) 120: 62-72.
In: Zoology (Jena). Fischer: Jena. ISSN 0944-2006; e-ISSN 1873-2720, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Syngnathidae Bonaparte, 1831 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    3D morphometrics; Syngnathid fishes; Prehensile tail

Authors  Top 
  • Neutens, C., more
  • de Dobbelaer, B.
  • Claes, P.
  • Adriaens, D., more

    All syngnathid fishes are characterized by a tail with a vertebral column that is surrounded by dermal Plates - four per vertebra. Seahorses and pipehorses have prehensile tails, a unique characteristic among teleosts that allows them to grasp and hold onto substrates. Pipefishes, in contrast, possess a more rigid tail. Previous research (Neutens et al., 2014) showed a wide range of variation within the skeletal morphology of different members in the syngnathid family. The goal of this study is to explore whether the diversity in the three-dimensional (3D) shape of different tail types reflects grasping performance, and to what degree grasping tails occupy a different and more constrained diversity. For this, a 3D morphometrical analysis based on surfaces was performed. Four different analyses were performed on the tail skeleton of nine species exhibiting different levels of tail grasping capacities (four pipehorse, three seahorse, one pipefish and one seadragon species) to examine the intra-individual variation across the anteroposterior and dorso-ventral axis. In the two interspecific analyses, all vertebrae and all dermal plates were mutually compared. Overall, intra-individual variation was larger in species with a prehensile tail. The analysis on the vertebrae showed differences in the length and orientation of the hemal spine as well as the inclination angle between the anterior and posterior surface of the vertebral body. This was observed at an intra-individual level across the anteroposterior axis in prehensile species and at an inter-individual level between prehensile and non-prehensile species. Across the anteroposterior axis in prehensile tails, the overall shape of the plates changes from rectangular at the anterior end to square at the posterior end. Across the dorso-ventral axis, the ventral dermal plates carry a significantly longer caudal spine than the dorsal ones in all prehensile-tailed species. It can therefore be concluded that prehensile tails exhibit a larger anteroposterior and dorso-ventral shape variation than non-prehensile ones. However, the hypothesis that there is a more constrained shape variation among prehensile species compared to non-prehensile ones had to be rejected.

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