Taxonomic significance of vertebral column and caudal skeleton of clupeid fishes (Teleostei: Clupeiformes) of Iran

Leyli Purrafee Dizaj, Hamid Reza Esmaeili, Laith Jawad, Mehregan Ebrahimi, Ali Gholamhosseini, Tooraj Valinasab

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Clupeiformes (generally known as herrings, shads and sardines) with a synapomorphy of recessus lateralis are globally distributed marine, freshwater and diadromous species classified in seven families including the family Clupeidae. In this study, a comparative analysis of the vertebral column and caudal skeleton of twelve clupeid species was conducted on the basis of X-ray imaging and usual staining method of bones and cartilages. Several osteological features including number of principal branched caudal rays bearing with hypurals on both lobes of the caudal-fin; number, length, arrangement and shape of epural bones; shape and length of haemal and neural spines of the penultimate vertebrae 2, 3 and 4; length and shape of parhypural; length and shape of neural arch of the urostyle; distribution of the dorsal and procurrent rays, and fusion of parhypural with preural centrum 1 (PU1) were investigated and a detailed account of these structures were provided. The results reveal that the neural spine of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th penultimate vertebrae (NSPU2, NSPU3 and NSPU4) was generally narrow and broad in lower and pointed at upper part with some variation in the size and position related to the dorsal edge of the body in different taxa. The neural arch of the urostyle (Na) has been observed as spindle, lance-like or knife-like. It is usually long (≥1/2 length of the NSPU2) with some modification in the studied species. Two or three curved, straight, cone-shape or pin-shaped epurals were found in all species with the same number in congeneric species. Opisthural cartilage (O) lays between HYP6 and PLS anteriorly, located at the tip of PLS or traversed horizontally. The presence of this cartilage made a gap between first (longest) and second unbranched caudal rays in upper part of caudal-fin. It showed six varied shapes (e.g. fusiform, golf club-like, horn shape, trapezoid shape, crescent and triangle) with different size in comparison with HYP6. This comparative study revealed that some osteological characters such as shape and position of opisthural cartilage, shape of neural arch of the urostyle, and number of epurals could be used as suitable features for the identification of the studied clupeids at the species and genus levels. The improved knowledge of the skeletal structures provided here, can also facilitate the correct identification of clupeid fossils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-219
Number of pages14
JournalActa Zoologica
Issue number2
Early online date7 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • caudal-fin skeleton
  • Clupeidae
  • osteological characters
  • phylogeny
  • systematics


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