Variable Cell Positions and Cell Contacts Underlie Morphological Evolution of the Rays in the Male Tails of Nematodes Related to Caenorhabditis elegans

David H.A. Fitch, Scott W. Emmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations


As a first step toward understanding their mechanism of morphological evolution, we compare the morphology and development of the male genitalia in 10 species of Rhabditidae, the family of nematodes that includes Caenorhabditis elegans . We describe a number of variable morphological characteristics and focus in particular on the differing arrangements of the caudal papillae or rays within the acellular fan. We analyze the development of the ray cells within the epidermis of the last larval stage and identify changes in cell positions and cell contacts that underlie evolutionary changes in the arrangement of the rays. Epidermal cell positions were determined by means of indirect immunofluorescence staining with a monoclonal antibody directed towards adherens junctions. Similarities between the species in the cellular arrangements during the earliest developmental stages allow us to propose homologies between the rays in different species. Evolutionary changes in the positions and order of homologous rays are correlated with shifts in cell positions during development. The results suggest that genes for call recognition or adhesion proteins, or pattern formation genes that regulate cell recognition or adhesion proteins, may be important foci of evolutionary change affecting morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-582
Number of pages19
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1995


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

Cite this