Anatomy and Evolution of Heterocercal Tail in Lamniform Sharks

Sun H. Kim, Kenshu Shimada*, Cynthia K. Rigsby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Lamniformes is a small shark group consisting of 15 extant species with remarkably diverse lifestyles and a wide range in heterocercal tail morphology. The caudal fin morphology must be related to their lifestyle because the tail is a main locomotive structure in sharks, but such relationships have remained largely uninvestigated. Here, the morphology-lifestyle relationship in lamniforms is examined through phylogenetic mapping. This study suggests that, within Lamniformes, caudal fins with a more horizontally directed curvature of the vertebral column are plesiomorphic, whereas those with a large dorsally directed curvature of the vertebral column are apomorphic. It also shows that caudal fins with posteriorly directed hypochordal rays are plesiomorphic, and that those with ventrally directed hypochordal rays are apomorphic within Lamniformes. Four basic caudal fin types are recognized in lamniforms on the basis of these skeletal variables in which one corollary is that the evolution of external morphology of caudal fin does not necessarily correspond to the evolution of its skeletal anatomy. This study also demonstrates that specific lifestyles seen in different lamniforms are indeed correlative with different caudal fin types in which a less asymmetrical heterocercal tail is a derived feature in lamniforms that evolved for fast swimming to capture fast swimming prey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-442
Number of pages10
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Heterocercal tail
  • Lamniformes
  • Phylogenetic mapping
  • Shark

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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