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Early otolith development in the critically endangered tooth-carp, Aphanius farsicus (Teleostei: Cyprinodontidae)

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Otolith morphology in the tooth-carp/killifish genus Aphanius is a source of informative taxonomic characters at both the species and population level. Most work on otoliths has focused on adult specimens, while evidence of ontogenetic variation is rarely provided. In this study we describe the development of otolith morphology during the early life stages of an endangered and endemic species, the Fars tooth-carp Aphanius farsicus from southern Iran. The study material comprises 34 larvae and early juveniles representing nine different developmental stages (0–120 days post hatching), all reared under the same laboratory conditions. The results reveal (i) a significant correlation between standard length and otolith size (length) in larval and early juvenile stages, (ii) clear differences in otolith morphology between larvae/early juveniles and adults, and (iii) a temporal link between the appearance of the sulcus on the otolith’s inner face and the emergence of the dorsal and anal fins. Our results indicate that otoliths of Aphanius can be recognized as originating from larval or early juvenile fish based on their short rostrum and antirostrum lengths and wide excisura, in addition to their small size. These immature otoliths are, however, not diagnostic at the species level in A. farsicus, nor most probably in other species of tooth-carp. The outcome of our study is also of interest to palaeontologists working with fossil killifish otoliths, as it can help avoid misinterpretation of ancient species diversity.

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The research was funded by Shiraz University and was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Biology Department (SU- 9431436). We are grateful to the editor and reviewers for their constructive comments which improved our manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hamid Reza Esmaeili.

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Vahed, N.S., Esmaeili, H.R., Masoudi, M. et al. Early otolith development in the critically endangered tooth-carp, Aphanius farsicus (Teleostei: Cyprinodontidae). Environ Biol Fish 101, 1309–1317 (2018).

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