Anatomical studies were undertaken to analyze the brainstem organization of the auditory, vestibular, and lateral line nuclei in a teleost, the oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau. Neuronal cytoarchitectonics and horseradish peroxidase label of cranial nerves were utilized to delineate the borders of the five octavus and two lateralis brainstem nuclei. Each of the eight octavolateralis nerves were labeled individually to compare and contrast their central projections. Projections of the three semicircular canals were found to be largely overlapping. Terminal fields were observed within the eminentia granularis and in each of the octavus nuclei. The nucleus anterior octavus was reciprocally innervated by the semicircular canals and the saccule. The canals terminated heavily in the ventral portions of the anterior octavus, whereas the saccule terminated extensively in the dorsal nuclear portions. The saccule also distributed terminals throughout the octavus cell column, including a light terminal field within the dorsal, medial, and anterior portions of the descending octavus nucleus, a region densely innervated by this end‐organ in other species. These results suggest that the anterior octavus nucleus may have a dual function. The dorsal portions may be an auditory relay nucleus, whereas the ventral portions may subserve vestibular function. Utriclar and lagenar afferents also terminated throughout the octavus cell column. Afferents of the anterior and posterior lateral lines ended within the eminentia granularis and the lateral line nuclei. Semicircular canal afferents and lateral line afferents appeared completely segregated within the eminentia. The above results are useful as an aid in the understanding of an ongoing, comprehensive functional analysis of auditory and vestibular mechanisms in toadfish and complement previous work on the efferent vestibular and sound‐producing motor systems. Examination of toadfish contributes to a more general and complete overview of the octavolateralis area of teleosts and the eventual identification of primitive and derived patterns of octaval organization. Additionally, this work may permit the further demonstration of species‐typical characters that may indicate adaptations to particular behavioral repertoires.
- semicircular canal
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