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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Some gross morphological studies on the internal

anatomy of the scaled common carp fish (Cyprinus
carpio) in Egypt
Farag, F.M.M., Wally, Y.R., Daghash, S.M. and Ibrahim,
Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Cairo Univer-

With 11 figures received November 2013 and accepted for publication January 2014

was two chambered and was phy-

sostomous type. The kidneys were
The present work was carried out
differentiated into head and trunk
on fresh ten scaled carp fish of
kidneys. The ovaries were large
weight range 1.5 – 3.5 kg. The fish-
oval bodies that occupied most of
es were subjected to fine dissection
the abdominal cavity. The testes
to demonstrate the anatomy of the
consisted of 5-6 irregular lobes
digestive, respiratory and urogenital
The obtained results were photo-
organs. Carp fish had a terminal
graphed, described and discussed
mouth, no teeth on both jaws and
with their corresponding features of
this was compensated by well-
authors who performed earlier stud-
developed pharyngeal pad and
ies in other fish species.
pharyngeal teeth. No stomach could
be observed but the beginning of
Keywords: Anatomy, Fish, Scaled ،
the intestinal tract formed an intesti-
common carp.
nal swelling. The intestinal tract
throughout its length formed three
U-shaped loops. The liver was rela-
tively large and formed of multiple The common carp (Mabrouk in Ara-
hepatic fragments that surrounded bic) is a widespread freshwater fish
and dispersed between most of the in lakes, ponds and large rivers in
viscera. The gall bladder was a Europe and Central Asia, but has
large sac situated on the right side been introduced practically every-
of the intestinal swelling. Five pairs where outside its native geograph-
of gill arches were observed and the ical and climatic range. It is on the
last pair was united forming the List of the world's 100 worst inva-
pharyngeal bone. The swim bladder
J. Vet. Anat. 15 Vol 7 No 1, (2014) 15 - 29
Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

sive species (Kottelat and Freyhof, and pharynx. All the viscera were
2007). Common carp is one of the first carefully dissected using finger
most important fish species used in and back of the blade and photo-
fish farming (Bakos and Gorda, graphed in situ, then carefully taken
2001). Many studies have been out to be examined and photo-
done on the anatomy of the fish graphed separately then preserved
(AL-hussaini,1949; Scott and Cross- in jars containing 10% formalin solu-
man, 1973; Petrick, 1975; Meyer et tion to be exposed in the anatomy
al., 1977;Sherwood and Thomas, museum at the Faculty of Veterinary
1977; Kumar and Tembhre,1996; Medicine Cairo University.
Gerham,1997;Zayed and Mohamed,
2004; Ahmed et al., 2008). The aim Result
of this study was to investigate the I) Digestive system
internal anatomy of the common The mouth (Fig. 1/1) was protru-
carp (Cyprinus carpio) as a trial to sive, terminally situated, and with
extend our knowledge on the fish the maxilla slightly overlapped the
anatomy which had received but mandible. The barbells (Fig.1, 2/2)
little attention in the field of veteri- were two pairs, one pair located on
nary comparative anatomy. the middle of the upper lip and was
short (8-10 mm long) and thin while
Material and methods the other pair was laterally situated
This work was carried out on the at the mouth commissure and was
scaled common carp fish. Ten fish longer (14-16 mm) and thicker.
were used, varied in weight from 1.5
-3.5 kg. The fish used were either The mouth cavity (Fig 2, 3/3)
still living or in a fresh state. of the carp was free from any teeth
For exposing the viscera an incision on both jaws. This was compen-
was made through the midventral sated by well-developed set of
line of the fish from just cranial to pharyngeal teeth. The tongue (Fig
the anus and continued with blunt- 2/4) was attached to the floor of the
tipped scissors cranially to the level mouth cavity by a thin median
of the pectoral fin. The body wall frenulum (Fig 2/5).
reflected upward, with careful crani-
al and caudal incisions to expose all The pharynx (Fig 3/6) was differen-
the viscera. The operculum was re- tiated into two distinct portions cra-
moved to expose the gills. nial and caudal. The cranial por-
The gills of the left side were then tion (Fig 3/6a) was wide and its roof
removed to expose the mouth cavity lined with smooth mucous mem-

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

brane whiles its lateral wall, contain- the middle of the body-cavity where
ing the gill-slits. The caudal portion it curved forming a semicircular
(Fig 3 /6b) of the pharynx contained downward flexure and continued
the pharyngeal pad and pharyngeal caudally as the descending limb
teeth. The pharyngeal pad (Fig (Fig 5/11b) that extended again to
3/7) was small quadrilateral hard the caudal part of the body cavity
pad on the dorsal wall of the phar- where it formed another semicircu-
ynx below the occipital region of the lar downward flexure and continued
skull opposite to the pharyngeal as the middle loop.
teeth. The middle loop (Fig 5/12) was the
longest of the three loops forming
The alimentary canal began with the intestinal tract as it extended
short esophagus (Fig 5/9) and the throughout the length of the body
stomach could not be detected but cavity. It began as an ascending
the proximal portion of this tract limb (Fig 5/12b) that extended cra-
formed was slightly wider forming nially along the ventral wall forming
an intestinal swelling. a slight upward inclination and ter-
minated at the transverse septum
The intestinal swelling (Fig 5/10): then formed a sharp downward
was in the form of long straight tube, flexure and returned back as a de-
extending from the esophagus to scending limb (Fig 5/12a) that ex-
the caudal end of the body cavity. tended caudally to the caudal part of
This swelling was more wide crani- the body cavity where it formed an
ally and gradually diminished in di- upward curve and continued as the
ameter as it proceeded caudally. distal loop.
The distal loop (Fig 5/13) began as
The intestinal tract from the caudal an ascending limb (Fig 5/13a) that
end of the intestinal swelling to the extended cranially to about the mid-
anus formed three U- shaped loops, dle of the body cavity where it
each consisted of two limbs: an as- formed a semicircular upward flex-
cending limb and a descending ure and returned back as a de-
limb. scending limb (Fig 5/13b) that ex-
tended caudally to the caudal part of
The proximal loop (Fig 5/11) be- the body cavity where it terminated
gan at the caudal end of the intesti- at the anal pore (Fig 11/30).
nal swelling, and consisted of two
short limbs. The ascending limb (Fig It was noticeable that only the cra-
5/11a) extended cranially to about nial portion of the middle loop and

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

the entire distal loop could be ob- 7/19), and each filament had lamel-
served on the left side (Fig.5) of the lae with bright red coloration due to
body cavity while the rest of the in- the plenty of its blood. The inner
testinal tract was oriented on the concave edge of each gill arch pre-
right side. This means the intestinal sented two rows of bony comb like
tract while forming its three loops projections called the gill rakers
passed in an oblique manner from (Fig 7/20) which were short, thick
right to left and vice versa. and narrow spaced. The fifth gill
arch was found in the form of short
The liver (Figs 4, 6/14) was rela- rod of bone that united with its fel-
tively large and formed of multiple low forming Y-shaped pharyngeal
hepatic fragments that surrounded bone (Fig 7/21) which carried the
and dispersed between most of the pharyngeal teeth (Figs 3,7/8)
viscera. The gall bladder (Fig 5/15) which were located on the ven-
was a large sac situated on the right trolateral wall of the caudal portion
side of the cranial part of the intesti- of the pharynx and were arranged in
nal swelling. a triserial manner (3:1:1), i.e. three
medial large teeth and two succes-
The spleen (Figs 4, 5 / 16) was sive smaller lateral ones.
elongated dark red organ with broad
cranial pole and pointed caudal The swim bladder, gas bladder,
pole, located on the right side of the fish maw or air bladder (Figs 4, 5,
cranial part of the intestinal swelling. 9/22) was in the form gas-filled,
membranous sac that located just
II) Respiratory system ventral to the vertebral column and
The respiratory system of the fish kidneys. It was divided into two un-
was formed mainly of the gills. equal chambers; cranial and caudal.
These organs were located on both The cranial chamber (Fig 4, 5,
sides of the head, in special cavity 9/22a) was larger formed about 2/3
called gill or opercular chamber of the bladder size and ended cra-
covered externally by the opercu- nially with a rounded tip that lied in
lum (Fig 3/17) which made of a contact with the septum transver-
hard bony flap covering and protect- sum. The caudal chamber (Fig 4,
ing the gills. Carp fish contained five 5, 9/22b) was smaller and narrower
pairs of gill arches (Fig 7/18). On with caudal narrow tip. The two
the lateral convex edge of each arch chambers were demarcated from
presented two rows of long feathery each other by a narrow constriction,
structure, the gills filaments (Fig the isthmus (Fig 4, 5/22c). The cav-

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

ities of both chambers were undi- The head kidneys (Fig 8/26a) were
vided by any internal septa and in the form of two oval bodies and
were communicated through narrow were separated from each other in
internal foramen (Fig 5/24). The the midline and also from the trunk
swim bladder of the common carp kidneys by wide gap. The trunk
could be considered as an open, kidneys (Fig 8/26b) could be differ-
physostomous type, as it was entiated into cranial thick and cau-
connected to the cranial portion of dal thin portions. In between these
the esophagus through a pneumat- portions, the trunk kidney formed an
ic duct (Fig 4, 5/23). This duct was expanded three sided ventral lobe
observed to begin from the cranio- (Fig 8/26c) on the level of the isth-
ventral aspect of the caudal cham- mus of the swim bladder.
ber and extended cranially to be
terminated into the dorsal aspect of The gonads were represented by
the esophagus. paired ovaries or testes. The ova-
ries (Fig 4, 6, 9, /27) were in the
The transverse septum (Fig 4, 9, form of two large oval bodies with
/25) was in the form of thin trans- broad cranial pole and pointed cau-
parent membrane between ab- dal one that occupied most of the
dominal and pericardial cavities. It abdominal cavity, from the septum
could be considered as the fish dia- transversum cranially to the anus
phragm. caudally. Multiple ripe eggs could be
observed filling the ovaries. The
III) Urogenital system testes (Fig 10/28) were very large
bright red organs that demarcated
The urogenital organs were mainly
by deep fissures into 5-6 irregular
represented by the kidneys and
lobes and located between the swim
bladder and intestines. From the
The kidneys (Fig 8/26) were nar- caudal end of both gonads extend-
row, elongated organs dark reddish ed short tube called common ovi-
brown in colour, situated in the roof duct or sperm duct (Fig 10/29) that
of the abdominal cavity, related dor- terminated at the urogenital pore
sally to the vertebral column and (Fig 11/31) which formed an inde-
ventrally to the swim bladder. They pendent opening located cranial to
were divided according their loca- the anal pore.
tion into two portions; the cranial
portion or the head kidney and the
caudal portion or the trunk kidney.

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Discussion nasal, maxillary and chin barbells

According to the present work the (AL- Husaini, 1949)
mouth opening was oriented termi- The present study revealed that the
nally in the carp. Scott and Cross- common carp was free from any
man (1973) recorded that in the teeth on both jaws and this was
trout-perch the mouth was small compensated by well-developed
and slightly under snout, in the pharyngeal teeth, located in the
suckers fish the mouth was ventral caudal portion of the pharynx on the
while in the golden shiner fish the pharyngeal bone and were arranged
mouth notably directed upward, with in a triserial manner (3:1:1). In Cy-
chin projecting forward. The same prinus the teeth are arranged (2:1:1)
author added that the orientation as mentioned by AL- Husaini
and size of the mouth often indicate (1949).
the species feeding habits. Surface The present results as well as those
feeding fish usually have an under- given by AL- Husaini (1949) and
shot, upturned (superior) mouth for Meyer et al. (1977) recorded that
feeding on insects. Fish that feed in the Stomach could not be observed
mid water have a terminal mouth, in the alimentary tract of the carp.
which is usually considered the Similarly lampreys, hagfishes, chi-
"normal" fish mouth. Predatory fish maeras, lungfishes, and some tele-
usually have a wide mouth, while ost fish have no stomach at all, with
omnivorous fish have smaller the esophagus opening directly into
mouths. Bottom feeding fish gener- the intestine (Sherwood and Thom-
ally have an under slung or inferior as 1977). However, the study
mouth. Often, bottom feeding spe- showed that the post esophageal
cies are also equipped with barbells portion of this tract formed wide hol-
("whiskers"), which are tactile and low tube which may be designated
taste organs used for locating food as a stomach.
in dark or muddy waters. The bar-
In Accordance with AL- Husaini
bells in the common carp were two
(1949) no pyloric ceca could be ob-
pairs; one pair located on the middle
served in the common carp. Sher-
of the upper lip and was short and
wood and Thomas (1977) men-
thin while the other pair was laterally
tioned that the pyloric ceca present-
situated at the mouth commissure.
ed in most amniotes, and also in
Cat fish presented four pair barbells
lungfish in the form of small out
in the form of long filaments and
pocketing, despite the name they
were designated according to their
are not homologous with the cecum
attachment around the mouth as
of amniotes, and their purpose was

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

to increase the overall area of the and dispersed between most of the
digestive epithelium. The same au- intestine and was designated by the
thors added that there was no small author as hepatopancreas. In Perch
intestine in sharks, sturgeons, and the liver formed of U-shaped organ,
lungfish. Instead, the gut formed a pale pink in colour and consisted of
spiral intestine, connecting the four lobes; two large lobes, right and
stomach to the rectum. In this type left and two smaller lobes while in
of gut, the intestine itself is relatively Tilapia the liver was formed of two
straight, but has a long fold running lobes large left lobe and small right
along the inner surface in a spiral one ( Ibrahim, 2013).
fashion, sometimes for dozens of
turns. This valve greatly increases According to Gerham (1997), Zayed
both the surface area and the effec- and Mohamed (2004) and Ahmed et
tive length of the intestine. No al. (2008), the gill arches in the tilap-
valves could be observed in the ia and cat fish were four pairs . On
common carp fish. the other hand five pairs of gill arch-
I n a g r e e m e n t w i t h AL- Husaini es were observed and the last pair
(1949) the intestinal tract of the carp united forming the pharyngeal bone.
fish formed three loops. However It is to add that the air breathing
the intestinal swelling and the as- dendretic organs recorded by the
cending limb of the proximal loop authors in the cat fish could not be
recorded in the present study was observed in the present study.
designated by the latter author as In accordance with Petrick (1975) in
the Siphonal loop. Sherwood and the Barbus, and Labeo fishes and
Thomas (1977) stated that in bony Meyer et al (1977) in the carp fishes
fish, the intestine was relatively the swim bladder of the common
short, typically around one and a carp was constricted into two cham-
half times the length of the fish's bers a cranial and a caudal con-
body. AL-Husaini (1949) mentioned nected by an isthmus. Petrick
that there was a general relationship (1975) in Siluriformes fishes men-
between the length of the intestine tioned heart-shaped swim bladder
and feeding habits. The intestine in that divided by a longitudinal and a
carnivorous fish was shorter than transverse septum into three cham-
that of omnivores and herbivores. bers; a cranial chamber and two
In agreement with AL-Husaini caudal ones, right and left. In the
(1949) the liver of the Carp was rel- common carp of this study the cavi-
atively large and formed of multiple ties of both chambers were undivid-
hepatic fragments that surrounded ed by any internal septa and were
communicated through narrow in-

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

ternal foramen through the connect- mirabile was not observed. The gas
ing isthmus. The swim bladder of content of the bladder is controlled
the common carp could be consid- through a Rete mirabile through gas
ered as an open, physostomous exchange between the bladder and
type, as it was connected to the the blood (Kardong, 2008).
cranial portion of the esophagus
through a pneumatic duct. Petrick In the common carp the head kid-
(1975) also recorded physostomous neys were in the form of two oval
swim bladder in the Barbus, Siluri- bodies and separated from each
formes and Labeo fishes while that other in the midline and also from
of the Cichlid was physoclistic with- the trunk kidneys by wide gap. It
out connection to the gut. The swim may be added that the trunk kidneys
bladder was often absent in cartilag- were further differentiated into a
inous fishes, as shark and fast cranial thick and a caudal thin por-
swimming fishes, as the tuna and tion. In between these portions, an
mackerel families (Kardong, 2008). expanded three sided ventral lobes
It is to add that, the swim bladder of were formed. Similar findings were
the carp fish did not connect to the also recorded by Kumar and
inner ear. On the contrary Parmen- Tembhre (1996) in the Carp but
tier et al. (2011) mentioned that the they described the later lobes as
swim bladder formed two bilateral two tubes like structures.
horns connected to the inner ear
and played a role in enhancing References
hearing. Ahmed, A. E.; Mohamed, K.; Ah-
med, S.A. and Masoud, F. (2008):
Petrick (1975) also recorded the Anatomical, light and scanning Elec-
presence of gas gland and Rete mi- tron Microscopic studies on the Air
rabile on the wall of the swim blad- Breathing Dentretic organ of Sharp
der in Cichlidae and added that Tooth cat fish (Clarias gariepinus).
these glands formed patches on the Journal of Veterinary Anatomy;
ventral wall of the bladder which 1(1):29-37.
were of a definite shape and size for
different species. Neither Rete nor AL-husaini, A. H. (1949): On the
glands were observed in the com- Functional Morphology of the Ali-
mon Carp, similar to that recorded mentary Tract of Some Fish in Rela-
by the latter author in Barbus, Siluri- tion to Differences in their Feeding
formes and Labeo fishes. He also Habits: Anatomy and Histology.
added that Hydrocynus fish pre-
sented gas glands although Rete

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Quarterly Journal Microscopical floor, N.S Bhawan, Bhawan, 4th

Science, 90 (2):110-131. Cross, 4thMain, Gandhi Nagar,
Bangalore-560 009.
Bakos J. and Gorda, S. (2001):
Genetic resources of common carp Meyer, V.; Krefft, G. and Lillelund,
at the Fish Culture Research Insti- K. (1977): Atlas zur Anatomie und
tute, Szarvas, Hungary, FAO Fish- Morphologie der NutzfischeVerlag
eries Technical Paper No. 417 , Paul Parey -Hamburg Und Berlin.
Rome, FAO.2001.106p. 62 (4): 557.

Parmentier, E., Mann, K. and

Gerham, J. B. (1997): Air Breathing
Mann, D. (2011): Hearing and mor-
Fishes. Pupplished by Academic
phological specializations of the mo-
Press, a division of Harcourt Brace
jarra (Eucinostomus argentous).
and company 525 B,suite1900,San
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Diego, Caliornia.
214, 2697-2701
Ibrahim, A.M. (2013): Construction
Petrick, F.O. (1975): Anatomy of
of Anatomical Learning Modules of
the swim bladder of seven families
Some Fresh Water Fish Obtained
of Transvaal fresh water fishes.
from the Egyptian Zone of the River
Journal of the Limnological Society
Nile. Thesis M. V. Sc. Faculty of
of Southern Africa Vol. (1), Issue 1.
Veterinary Medicine Cairo Universi-
ty. Scott, W.B., and Crossman, E.J.
(1973): Freshwater fishes of Cana-
Kardong, K. (2008): Vertebrates: da. Fisheries Research Board of
Comparative anatomy, function, Canada Bulletin 184
evolution (5th ed.). Boston: McGraw
- Hill. ISBN0-07-304058-4. Sherwood, R.A. and Thomas, P.
S. (1977): The Vertebrate Body.
Kottelat, M. and J. Freyhof, Philadelphia, PA: Holt-Saunders
(2007): Handbook of European International. pp. 161–170.
freshwater fishes. Publications
Kottelat, Cornel, Switzerland 646 p. Zayed, A.E. and Mohamed, S.A.
(2004): Morphological study on the
Kumar, S. and Tembhre, M.
gills of two species of fresh water
(1996): Anatomy and physiology of
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Jangpura, New Delhi 110014 First

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Legend for the figures

1 Mouth, 2 Barbells, 3 Mouth cavity, 4 Tongue, 5 Median frenulum, 6 Pharynx,

6a Cranial portion, 6b Caudal portion, 7 Pharyngeal pad, 8 Pharyngeal teeth, 9
Esophagus, 10 Intestinal swelling. 11 The proximal loop, 11a-Descending limb.
11b Ascending limb, 12 Middle loop, 12a Descending limb,12b Ascending limb.
13 Distal loop, 13a Descending limb, 13b Ascending limb, 14 Liver,15 Gall
bladder, 16 Spleen, 17 Operculum, 18 Gill arches,19 Gills filaments, 20 Gill
rakers, 21 Pharyngeal bone, 22 Swim bladder, 22a Cranial chamber, 22b Cau-
dal chamber, 22c Isthmus, 23 Pneumatic duct, 24 Internal foramen, 25 Trans-
verse septum, 26 Kidneys, 26a Head kidneys, 26b Trunk kidneys, 26c Ventral
lobe, 27 Ovaries, 28 Testes, 29 Common sperm duct, 30 Anal pore, 31 Uro-
genital pore, H Heart.

Fig (1): A photograph showing the Mouth of the common carp (Ventral view)

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Fig (2): A photograph showing the mouth cavity and tongue of the common

Fig (3): A photograph showing the mouth cavity and pharynx of the common
carp (operculum was reflected).

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Fig (4): A photograph showing the viscera of the common carp in situ (Left

Fig (5): A photograph showing the intestinal arrangement of the common carp (colored
photo). Swim bladder opened

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Fig (6): A photograph showing the liver and ovary of the common carp in situ (Ventral

Fig (7): A photograph showing the gill structure of the common carp

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Fig (8): A photograph showing the kidney of the common carp in situ (Ventral view)

Fig (9): A photograph showing the left ovary and swim bladder of the common

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Internal anatomy of the common carp Farag et al.

Fig (10): A photograph showing the testis and swim bladder of the common carp in situ
(Ventral view).

Fig (11): A photograph showing the anal and urogenital pores of the common carp in
situ (Ventral view).

J. Vet. Anat. 29 Vol 7 No 1, (2014) 15 - 29

Animals of this issue

Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Kingdom: Animalia & Phylum: Chordata & Class: Actinopterygii & Order: Cypriniformes & Family:
Cyprinidae & Genus: Cyprinus & Species: C. carpio

The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a widespread freshwater fish of

eutrophic waters in lakes and large rivers in Europe and Asia. The wild
populations are considered vulnerable to extinction, but the species has also
been domesticated and introduced into environments worldwide, and is often
considered a very destructive invasive species, being included in the List of the
world's 100 worst invasive species. It gives its name to the carp family:

They naturally live in temperate climates in fresh or slightly brackish water with a
pH of 6.5–9.0 and salinity up to about 0.5% and temperatures of 3 to 35°C. The
ideal temperature is 23 to 30°C, with spawning beginning at 17–18°C. Carp are
able to tolerate water with very low oxygen levels, by gulping air at the surface.

Common carp are omnivorous. They can eat a herbivorous diet of water plants,
but prefer to scavenge the bottom for insects, crustaceans (including
zooplankton), crawfish, and benthic worms.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia