oa African Zoology - Larval development of Gilchristella aestuaria (Gilchrist, 1914) (Pisces: Clupeidae) from southern Africa

Volume 28, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1562-7020
  • E-ISSN: 2224-073X



The larval development of the southern African endemic clupeid Gilchristella aestuaria is descriptionbed and illustrated from specimens collected in the Swartvlei and Sundays estuarine systems of the Cape Province. Free embryos have no visible gut, unpigmented eyes and bodies, and are dependent on the yolk sac contents for nutrnion. This stage lasts until about 4 mm body length (BL) when the eyes become pigmented and a gut becomes visible. Between 4 mm and 7 mm BL melanophores on the ventral aspect of the body form. and the dorsal and caudal fin anlagen develop. Between 7 mm and 8 mm BL the swimbladder forms, flexion occurs and the anal fin anlage develops. By the to mm BL stage most of the skeletal elements have begun to differentiate, with the vertebral centra already showing signs of ossification. General ossification commences between t 2 mm and 13 mm BL. All unpaired fins have the adult complement of rays by 15 mm BL. Scalation starts between 16 mm and 17 mm BL and is complete by 20 mm BL. Body depth increases gradually. from about 5% of BL in the early larval stages to >14% of BL in the juveniles. The pre-anal length decreases from about 87% of BL in the larvae to approximately 69% of BL in the juveniles. Head length increases from approximately 11 % of BL in the larvae to 24-29% of BL in the juveniles. The larval snout is initially 2% of BL, increasing to 7% of BL in the juvenile stages owing to the development of jaw elements.

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