Sensory evolution in a cavefish radiation: patterns of neuromast distribution and associated behaviour in Sinocyclocheilus (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae)

Bing Chen, Tingru Mao, Yewei Liu, Wenzhang Dai, Xianglin Li, Amrapali P Rajput, Marcio R Pie, Jian Yang, Joshua B Gross, Madhava Meegaskumbura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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The genus Sinocyclocheilus, comprising a large radiation of freshwater cavefishes, are well known for their presence of regressive features (e.g. variable eye reduction). Fewer constructive features are known, such as the expansion of the lateral line system (LLS), which is involved in detecting water movements. The precise relationship between LLS expansion and cave adaptation is not well understood. Here, we examine morphology and LLS-mediated behaviour in Sinocyclocheilus species characterized by broad variation in eye size, habitat and geographical distribution. Using live-staining techniques and automated behavioural analyses, we examined 26 Sinocyclocheilus species and quantified neuromast organ number, density and asymmetry within a phylogenetic context. We then examined how these morphological features may relate to wall-following, an established cave-associated behaviour mediated by the lateral line. We show that most species demonstrated laterality (i.e. asymmetry) in neuromast organs on the head, often biased to the right. We also found that wall-following behaviour was distinctive, particularly among eyeless species. Patterns of variation in LLS appear to correlate with the degree of eye loss, as well as geographical distribution. This work reveals that constructive LLS evolution is convergent across distant cavefish taxa and may mediate asymmetric behavioural features that enable survival in stark subterranean microenvironments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20221641
Pages (from-to)20221641
JournalProceedings. Biological sciences
Issue number1984
Early online date12 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2022


  • Health Status
  • constructive traits
  • Animals
  • Cypriniformes
  • stygomorphy
  • Phylogeny
  • phylogeny
  • troglomorphy
  • cave biology


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