The Widemouth Blindcat, Satan eurystomus Hubbs and Bailey 1947, was the second of four stygobitic species of Ictaluridae discovered in the subterranean waters of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. The skeletal anatomy of Satan has been scarcely known from a few, dated radiographs. Using additional radiographs and high resolution CT-datasets for two well-ossified specimens, we applied high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (HRXCT) to visualize, illustrate and describe the bony skeleton of Satan. We also provide an online archive of still and animated tomographic images of the skeletal anatomy of this little-known species.
The skeleton and soft anatomy of Satan are distinctive. Twelve skeletal autapomorphies are described that singularly distinguish Satan within Ictaluridae and, probably in combination, from all other catfishes. Some of these are reductive losses or simplifications of skull bones (e.g. loss of one infraorbital bone; reduced ornamentation of the pterotic bone) and joint complexity (e.g. simple overlapping frontal-lateral ethmoid articulation; loosely ligamentous interopercle-posterior ceratohyal joint). Some of the autapomorphies are anatomically and perhaps developmentally complex (e.g. a novel series of three midline joints closing a middle span of the posterior cranial fontanel; a deeply excavated temporal fossa and an unusually enlarged interhyal bone). The tiny dorsal-fin spinelet (first lepidotrich) of Satan has a novel peaked and twisted shape.
Ten apparent and exclusive synapomorphies within Ictaluridae gathered from this and previous studies suggest that Satan and Pylodictis are closest relatives. Most of these are functionally related to prey detection and suction feeding: fusion of the symphyseal mandibular sensory pores and increase in the number of preoperculo-mandibular canal pores; depressed, flattened heads and wide transverse mouths; prominent posterior process of the lateral ethmoid alongside and below the frontal bone margin; vertical and blade-like supraoccipital posterior process; unique arrangement of the parasagittal and occipital muscleattachment crests on the skull roof; large triangular panel of integument within the operculum framed by the opercle, preopercle and interopercle bones; elongated posterior ceratohyal; and, form of the fourth supraneural and loss of its anterior nuchal plate.
In contrast, 15 synapomorphies recovered by Arce-H. et al. 2016, are confirmed suggesting that Satan is one of the four stygobitic ictalurids comprising a “Troglobites” subclade within the family: (Trogloglanis, Satan, Prietella phreatophila, P. lundbergi). These features include three stygomorphic and reductive apomorphies that are exclusive within Ictaluridae: loss of fully developed eyes and pigmentation, and simplification of the fifth vertebra and its joint with the Weberian apparatus. Twelve other synapomorphies shown by the Troglobites are also apparent homoplasies of character states shared with various other ictalurids. These include reductive characters such as shortened lateral line canal, reduced infraorbitals and underdeveloped or incomplete ossifications of the pterotic, supraoccipital, hyoid arch bones and transcapular ligament. Also, the Troglobites and various other ictalurids have: an adnate adiposecaudal fin, foreshortened anterior cranial fontanelle, reduced ventral wings of the frontal bone, replacement of bone by cartilage in hypohyal joints; incompletely ossified transcapular ligament, and consolidation of some hypural bones.
Completing a full morphological character dataset across the Troglobites has been impeded by incomplete specimen preparations and study of P. lundbergi and to a lesser exte