Very few studies have described brain scaling in vertebrates throughout ontogeny and none in lampreys, one of the two surviving groups of the early agnathan (jawless) stage in vertebrate evolution. The life cycle of anadromous parasitic lampreys comprises two divergent trophic phases, firstly filter-feeding as larvae in freshwater and secondly parasitism as adults in the sea, with the transition marked by a radical metamorphosis. We characterized the growth of the brain during the life cycle of the pouched lamprey Geotria australis, an anadromous parasitic lamprey, focusing on the scaling between brain and body during ontogeny and testing the hypothesis that the vast transitions in behavior and environment are reflected in differences in the scaling and relative size of the major brain subdivisions throughout life. The body and brain mass and the volume of six brain structures of G. australis, representing six points of the life cycle, were recorded, ranging from the early larval stage to the final stage of spawning and death. Brain mass does not increase linearly with body mass during the ontogeny of G. australis. During metamorphosis, brain mass increases markedly, even though the body mass does not increase, reflecting an overall growth of the brain, with particularly large increases in the volume of the optic tectum and other visual areas of the brain and, to a lesser extent, the olfactory bulbs. These results are consistent with the conclusions that ammocoetes rely predominantly on non-visual and chemosensory signals, while adults rely on both visual and olfactory cues.
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- filter feeder
- jawless vertebrate