The lateral line systems of aquatic amphibians and all chondrichthyan and osteichthyan fish present a similar array of mechanoreceptors. However, electroreceptors, the second major component of the lateral line system, have clearly undergone more significant evolutionary change. Chondrichthyans and non-neopterygian fish possess primitive ampullary organ electroreceptors, whereas significantly different ‘new’ ampullary organs and tuberous electroreceptors are found in a few groups of teleosts (mormyrids, gymnotids and some catfish). The pairing of mechano- and electroreceptors in the lateral line system, as well as the morphologically and physiologically distinct electroreceptors of teleosts have inspired several recent studies on the origin and evolution of the lateral line receptors. We described the development of the lateral line system in sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) as part of an outgroup analysis of lateral line development in three taxa: vertebrates that have both mechanoreceptive neuromasts and primitive electroreceptors; neopterygian fish that only have mechanoreceptors; and teleosts that have re-evolved new electroreceptors. Development in Scaphirhynchus was consistent with previously studied taxa in that the lateral line system developed from a series of six dorsolateral placodes. Interestingly, we found that the octaval placode was bound rostrally and caudally by large placodal fields, out of which the six lateral line placodes arose. This finding supports recent suggestions for a common placodal primordium for all placodes. Each of the six placodes gave rise to the lateral line nerves before elongating into sensory ridges, which contained neuromast primordia. The ampullary organ fields of Scaphirhynchus arose from the lateral zones of the anterodorsal, anteroventral, otic and supratemporal sensory ridges, which is also consistent with recently studied taxa. Comparisons of the lateral line system of Scaphirhynchus and close relatives, Acipenser and Polyodon, indicate that variation in some aspects of lateral line receptor numbers and distribution are related to changes in head morphology and feeding strategy, whereas other changes, such as a reduction in receptor number without a change in placode field size, indicate changes in placode development.
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