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Journal of morphology, Volume 279, Issue 9, September 2018, Pages 1301-1311Read article
Variation of vertebral centra numbers is common in vertebrates. Likewise, the number of associated elements such as ribs and neural and haemal arches can vary and affect all regions of the vertebral column. In mammals, only the number of cervical vertebrae is invariable. Variation of total vertebral centra numbers is well documented in teleost fish, often related to temperature. Less information is available about which part of the vertebral column and which associated elements are liable to variation. Here, variation in number of vertebral centra and associated elements is studied in Chinook salmon in six distinct anatomical regions. Animals are raised at 8 and 12°C to ask whether the vertebral centrum numbers, the pattern, and the frequency of variation in particular regions are temperature dependent. No significant difference concerning the total number of vertebrae was found, but regional differences occurred between the 8 and 12°C groups. Twelve specimens out of 60 of the 12°C group had three postcranial vertebrae compared to only one specimen in the 8°C group. The number of transitional vertebrae is significantly different in 8 and 12°C specimens. Fewer transitional vertebrae occur in more anterior positions in 8°C specimens. Most specimens of both temperature groups had two ural centra; however 17 specimens out of 60 of the 12°C group had up to five ural centra. Specimens of the 12°C group show more variation in the presence of the vestigial ribs associated with transitional vertebrae. Clearly, the postcranial, transitional, and ural regions are temperature sensitive. This study shows that nonsignificant differences in the total number of vertebrae can mask significant regional variation. Variation of vertebral numbers could be the consequence of loss or gain of vertebral centra and/or a change in the identity of the associated element on the vertebral centrum.