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The morphology and evolution of chondrichthyan cranial muscles: a digital dissection of the elephantfish Callorhinchus milii and the catshark Scyliorhinus canicula.

By Richard P Dearden, Rohan Mansuit, Antoine Cuckovic, Anthony Herrel, Dominique Didier, Paul Tafforeau, Alan Pradel

Posted 31 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.30.227132

The anatomy of sharks, rays, and chimaeras (chondrichthyans) is crucial to understanding the evolution of the cranial system in vertebrates, due to their position as the sister group to bony fishes (osteichthyans). Strikingly different arrangements of the head in the two constituent chondrichthyan groups - holocephalans and elasmobranchs - have played a pivotal role in the formation of evolutionary hypotheses targeting major cranial structures such as the jaws and pharynx. However, despite the advent of digital dissections as a means of easily visualizing and sharing the results of anatomical studies in three dimensions, information on the musculoskeletal systems of the chondrichthyan head remains largely limited to traditional accounts, many of which are at least a century old. Here we use synchrotron tomography acquire 3D data which we used to carry out a digital dissection of a holocephalan and an elasmobranch widely used as model species: the elephantfish, Callorhinchus milii , and the small-spotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula . We describe and figure the skeletal anatomy of the head, labial, mandibular, hyoid, and branchial cartilages in both taxa as well as the muscles of the head and pharynx. We make new observations, particularly regarding the branchial musculature of Callorhinchus , revealing several previously unreported or previously ambiguous structures. Finally, we review what is known about the evolution of chondrichthyan cranial muscles from their fossil record and discuss the implications for muscle homology and evolution, broadly concluding that the holocephalan pharynx is likely derived from a more elasmobranch-like form. This dataset has great potential as a resource, particularly for researchers using these model species for zoological research, functional morphologists requiring models of musculature and skeletons, as well as for palaeontologists seeking comparative models for extinct taxa. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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