Background: The Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) has emerged as a good animal model to study the constructive and regressive changes associated with living in cave environments, as both the ancestral sighted morph and the cave dwelling morph are extant. The cave dwelling morphs lack eyes and body pigmentation, but have well developed oral and sensory systems that are essential for survival in dark environments. The cave forms and surface forms are interfertile and give rise to F1 hybrids progeny known as intermediates. In cavefish, degeneration of the lens is one of the key events leading to eye regression. We have previously shown that surgical lens removal in surface fish embryos has an effect on the craniofacial skeleton. Surprisingly, lens removal was also found to have an effect on the caudal teeth in the lower jaw. In order to understand this result, we analyzed the lower jaw and upper jaw dentitions of surface, cavefish and F1 hybrids of surface and cavefish and compared our findings with surface fish that underwent lens removal. We also investigated the upper jaw (premaxillae and maxillae) dentition in these fish.
Mt St Vincent Univ, Dept Biol, Halifax, NS B3M 3J8, Canada