The rheophilic hillstream loaches (Balitoridae) of South and Southeast Asia possess a range of pelvic girdle morphologies, which may be attributed to adaptations for locomotion against rapidly flowing water. Specifically, the connectivity of the pelvic plate (basipterygium) to the vertebral column via a sacral rib, and the relative size and shape of the sacral rib, fall within a spectrum of three discrete morphotypes: long, narrow rib that meets the basipterygium; thicker, slightly curved rib meeting the basipterygium; and robust crested rib interlocking with the basipterygium. Species in this third category with more robust sacral rib connections between the basipterygium and vertebral column are capable of walking out of water with a tetrapod-like lateral-sequence, diagonal-couplet gait. This behavior has not been observed in species lacking direct skeletal connection between the vertebrae and the pelvis. The phylogenetic positions of the morphotypes were visualized by matching the morphological features onto a novel hypothesis of relationships for the family Balitoridae. The morphotypes determined through skeletal morphology were correlated with patterns observed in the pelvic muscle morphology of these fishes. Transitions towards increasingly robust pelvic girdle attachment were coincident with a more anterior origin on the basipterygium and more lateral insertion of the muscles on the fin rays, along with a reduction of the superficial abductors and adductors with more posterior insertions. These modifications are expected to provide a mechanical advantage for generating force against the ground. Inclusion of the enigmatic cave-adapted balitorid Cryptotora thamicola into the most data-rich balitorid phylogeny reveals its closest relatives, providing insight into the origin of the skeletal connection between the axial skeleton and basipterygium.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Developmental Biology
- computed tomography
- pelvic morphology