The development of the cranial lateral line canals and neuromast organs are described in postembryonic zebrafish (0-80 days postfertilization). Cranial canal development commences several weeks after hatch, is initiated in the vicinity of individual neuromasts, and occurs in four discrete stages that are described histologically. Neuromasts remain in open canal grooves for several weeks during which they dramatically change shape and increase in size by adding hair cells at a rate one-tenth that in the zebrafish inner ear. Scanning electron microscopy demonstrates that neuromasts elongate perpendicular to the canal axis and the axis of hair cell polarization and that they lack a prominent nonsensory cell population surrounding the hair cells-features that make zebrafish neuromasts unusual among fishes. These results demand a reassessment of neuromast and lateral line canal diversity among fishes and highlight the utility of the lateral line system of postembryonic zebrafish for experimental and genetic studies of the development and growth of hair cell epithelia.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.