Osteology of Paedocypris, a miniature and highly developmentally truncated fish (Teleostei: Ostariophysi: Cyprinidae). Academic Article uri icon


  • Species of the cyprinid genus Paedocypris are among the smallest and most developmentally truncated fishes and vertebrates. Our analysis of their skeletal structure reveals a puzzling combination of extreme developmental truncation and an increased morphological complexity in sexually dimorphic characters. The skeleton of Paedocypris is characterized by reduction and loss and resembles in many aspects that of a larval/early juvenile stage of its close relatives. We found 61 characters that have been affected by developmental truncation. A comparison with the skeletal development of a close relative, the zebrafish Danio rerio, demonstrates that the majority of the absent bones or skeletal structures in Paedocypris are those that appear late in the ossification trajectory of the zebrafish. Thus, their absence in Paedocypris seems to be due to the simple developmental truncation of terminal stages in the ossification sequence. Our study of the sexually dimorphic structures in Paedocypris demonstrates that predominantly the male exhibits the more complex state. In relation to the female, male Paedocypris uniquely possess a cleithrum with a pointed posterior process that covers the scapula laterally, and a more medially situated posterior flange that contacts the dorsal area of the coracoid; a massive and heavily ossified uppermost pectoral radial tightly bound to the scapula; thickened and enlarged three uppermost pectoral-fin rays; a large triangular, dorsolaterally directed process on the outer arm of the massive os suspensorium; and a enlarged and shovel-like anterodorsally directed basipterygium; and a hypertrophied first pelvic-fin ray with additional anterior flanges that support keratinized pads of skin. Female Paedocypris show only one structure that is better developed than in males: the first proximal-middle radial and the anteriormost fin ray of the dorsal fin are more massive and more heavily ossified. Although the function and biological role of these dimorphisms is still unknown, we hypothesize that they are related to a special reproductive behavior. Paedocypris is a prime example for the recent claim that miniaturization among cyprinids is associated with evolutionary novelty only in developmentally truncated miniatures and not in proportioned dwarfs. Paedocypris offers a strong challenge to Schindleria as the most extreme example of developmental truncation known among fishes. We highlight the difficulties that developmentally truncated taxa frequently pose to the resolution of their phylogenetic position and propose an approach to overcome this problem. Our phylogenetic comparison to determine the systematic position of Paedocypris among cyprinids reveals that it shares not only a number of unique absences, but also highly unusual progressive characters with Sundadanio and Danionella, two other Asian miniature cyprinids. We hypothesize that the three genera form a monophyletic group. We further found that Paedocypris and Danionella share a number of uniquely derived characters pointing to a sister group relationship of the two.

published proceedings

  • J Morphol

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Britz, R., & Conway, K. W.

citation count

  • 73

complete list of authors

  • Britz, R||Conway, KW

publication date

  • April 2009