Ontogenetic Shifts in Brain Organization in the Bluespotted Stingray Neotrygon kuhlii (Chondrichthyes: Dasyatidae)

Thomas J. Lisney, Kara E. Yopak, Victoria Camilieri-Asch, Shaun P. Collin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Fishes exhibit lifelong neurogenesis and continual brain growth. One consequence of this continual growth is that the nervous system has the potential to respond with enhanced plasticity to changes in ecological conditions that occur during ontogeny. The life histories of many teleost fishes are composed of a series of distinct stages that are characterized by shifts in diet, habitat, and behavior. In many cases, these shifts correlate with changes in overall brain growth and brain organization, possibly reflecting the relative importance of different senses and locomotor performance imposed by the new ecological niches they encounter throughout life. Chondrichthyan (cartilaginous) fishes also undergo ontogenetic shifts in habitat, movement patterns, diet, and behavior, but very little is known about any corresponding shifts in the size and organization of their brains. Here, we investigated postparturition ontogenetic changes in brain-body size scaling, the allometric scaling of seven major brain areas (olfactory bulbs, telencephalon, diencephalon, optic tectum, tegmentum, cerebellum, and medulla oblongata) relative to the rest of the brain, and cerebellar foliation in a chondrichthyan, i.e., the bluespotted stingray Neotrygon kuhlii. We also investigated the unusual morphological asymmetry of the cerebellum in this and other batoids. As in teleosts, the brain continues to grow throughout life, with a period of rapid initial growth relative to body size, before slowing considerably at the onset of sexual maturity. The olfactory bulbs and the cerebellum scale with positive allometry relative to the rest of the brain, whereas the other five brain areas scale with varying degrees of negative allometry. None of the major brain areas showed the stage-specific differences in rates of growth often found in teleosts. Cerebellar foliation also increases at a faster rate than overall brain growth. We speculate that changes in the olfactory bulbs and cerebellum could reflect increased olfactory and locomotor capabilities, which may be associated with ontogenetic shifts in diet, habitat use, and activity patterns, as well as shifts in behavior that occur with the onset of sexual maturity. The frequency distributions of the three cerebellar morphologies exhibited in this species best fit a 2:1:1 (right-sided:left-sided:intermediate) distribution, mirroring previous findings for another stingray species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-83
Number of pages16
JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


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