The vascular anatomy of the developing zebrafish: an atlas of embryonic and early larval development

Dev Biol. 2001 Feb 15;230(2):278-301. doi: 10.1006/dbio.2000.9995.


We have used confocal microangiography to examine and describe the vascular anatomy of the developing zebrafish, Danio rerio. This method and the profound optical clarity of zebrafish embryos make it possible to view the entire developing vasculature with unprecedented resolution. A staged series of three-dimensional images of the vascular system were collected beginning shortly after the onset of circulation at 1 day postfertilization through early- to midlarval stages at approximately 7 days postfertilization. Blood vessels in every region of the animal were imaged at each stage, and detailed "wiring patterns" were derived describing the interconnections between every major vessel. We present an overview of these data here in this paper and in an accompanying Web site "The interactive atlas of zebrafish vascular anatomy" online at ( We find a highly dynamic but also highly stereotypic pattern of vascular connections, with different sets of primitive embryonic vessels severing connections and rewiring in new configurations according to a reproducible plan. We also find that despite variation in the details of the vascular anatomy, the basic vascular plan of the developing zebrafish shows strong similarity to that of other vertebrates. This atlas will provide an invaluable foundation for future genetic and experimental studies of vascular development in the zebrafish.

MeSH terms

  • Angiography
  • Animals
  • Arteries / anatomy & histology
  • Arteries / embryology
  • Arteries / growth & development
  • Blood Vessels / anatomy & histology*
  • Blood Vessels / embryology
  • Blood Vessels / growth & development
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / anatomy & histology
  • Larva
  • Morphogenesis
  • Veins / anatomy & histology
  • Veins / embryology
  • Veins / growth & development
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology*
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / growth & development