Muscle structure and differentiation in pelagic and demersal stages of the Antarctic teleost Notothenia neglecta

The distribution and fine structure of muscle-fibre types has been determined for the pelagic fingerling and demersal adult stages of the antarctic teleost Notothenia neglecta Nybelin, collected from Signy Island, Antarctica, between January and February 1984. In both stages, the pectoral fin adductor muscle ( is largely composed of slow fibres which contain abundant mitochondria (34 to 36%). During development, the ratio of capillaries to fibres increases less than does fibre diameter, so that capillary density is significantly lower in the of adults (498 mm-2) than fingerlings (1 727 mm-2). The secondary metamorphosis from a pelagic to a demersal mode of life is associated with the disappearance of subcutaneous lipid sacs and major changes in the distribution and structure of muscle fibres in the myotomes. The trunk cross-section of adult fish is almost entirely composed of poorly vascularised fast-muscle fibres (100 capillaries mm-2), which contain densely packed myofibrils (86.3%), and have few mitochondria (1.4%). Slow-muscle fibres in adults are restricted to a thin wedge adjacent to the lateral line canal. In contrast, slow fibres occur around the entire circumference of the trunk in fingerlings representing 24% of the total cross-sectional area at the post-anal level. Volume densities (%) of mitochondria, intracellular lipid and myofibrils in this tissue are respectively 37.0, 7.9, 38.6 for fingerlings and 13.1, 0, 70.3 for adults. Slow-muscle fibres in adult fish are of unusually large diameter (50 to 120 μm) and have relatively low capillary densities (266 mm-2). These morphological changes reflect a general decrease in activity and a shift from a sub-carangiform to a labriform mode of swimming following transition from the fingerling to adult stage of the life cycle. The results are briefly discussed in relation to the physiology and ecology of antarctic fish.


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Authors: Johnston, I. A., Camm, J. -P.

1 March, 1987
Marine Biology / 94
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