The rocker bone: a new kind of mineralised tissue?

Cell Tissue Res. 2008 Oct;334(1):67-79. doi: 10.1007/s00441-008-0665-x. Epub 2008 Jul 30.


In some Ophidiiform fishes, the anterior part of the swimbladder is thickened into a hard structure called the "rocker bone", which is thought to play a role in sound production. Although this structure has been described as cartilage or bone, its nature is still unknown. We have made a thorough analysis of the rocker bone in Ophidion barbatum and compared it with both classical bone and cartilage. The rocker bone appears to be a new example of mineralisation. It consists of (1) a ground substance mainly composed of proteoglycans (mucopolysaccharide acid) and fibres and (2) a matrix containing small mineralised spherules composed of a bioapatite and fibrils. These spherules are embedded in mineralised cement of a similar composition to the spherules themselves. The rocker bone grows via the apposition of new apatite spherules at its periphery. These spherules are first secreted by the innermost fibroblast layer of the capsule contained in the rocker bone and then grow extracellularly. Blood vessels, which represent the only means of transport for matrix and mineral material, are numerous. They enter the rocker bone via the hyle and ramify towards the capsule. We propose to call this new kind of mineralised tissue constituting the rocker bone "frigolite" (the Belgian name for styrofoam) in reference to the presence of spherules of different sizes and the peculiarity of the rocker bone in presenting a smooth surface when fractured.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Sacs / physiology
  • Air Sacs / ultrastructure*
  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones / physiology
  • Bone and Bones / ultrastructure*
  • Calcification, Physiologic*
  • Cartilage / physiology
  • Cartilage / ultrastructure*
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission