Medaka Development

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Medaka Oryzias latipes or Japanese rice fish is a member of the killifish family first described in 1846 and has been widely used as a aquarium fish. A modified aquarium version with a genetically modified fluorescent (GFP) version also now available in some countries.

A 2004 study by Iwamatsu[1] has characterised the stages of normal fish development.

Medaka fish were also the first for the first vertebrate animal to mate in space (The International Microgravity Laboratory IML-2/STS-65 mission in 1994) as a developmental model for space experiments. The fish has also been used in studies of pigmentation development.

Fish Links: Zebrafish Development | Medaka Development | Salmon Development | Movie - Zebrafish Heart | Student Group Project - Zebrafish | Recent References | Category:Zebrafish | Category:Medaka

Some Recent Findings

  • Generation of a transgenic medaka (Oryzias latipes) strain for visualization of nuclear dynamics in early developmental stages[2] "In this study, we verified nuclear transport activity of an artificial nuclear localization signal (aNLS) in medaka fish (Oryzias latipes). We generated a transgenic medaka strain expresses the aNLS tagged enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) driven by a medaka beta-actin promoter. The aNLS-EGFP was accumulated in the nuclei of somatic tissues and yolk nuclei of oocytes, but undetectable in the spermatozoa. The fluorescent signal was observed from immediately after fertilization by a maternal contribution. Furthermore, male and female pronuclei were visualized in fertilized eggs, and nuclear dynamics of pronuclear fusion and subsequent cleavage were captured by time-lapse imaging. In contrast, SV40NLS exhibited no activity of nuclear transport in early embryos. In conclusion, the aNLS possesses a strong nuclear localization activity and is a useful probe for fluorescent observation of the pronuclei and nuclei in early developmental stage of medaka."
  • foxl3 is a germ cell-intrinsic factor involved in sperm-egg fate decision in medaka[3] "Sex determination is an essential step in the commitment of a germ cell to a sperm or egg. However, the intrinsic factors that determine the sexual fate of vertebrate germ cells are unknown. Here we show that foxl3, which is expressed in germ cells but not somatic cells in the gonad, is involved in sperm-egg fate decision in medaka fish. Adult XX medaka with disrupted foxl3 developed functional sperm in the expanded germinal epithelium of a histologically functional ovary. In chimeric medaka, mutant germ cells initiated spermatogenesis in female wild-type gonad. These results indicate that a germ cell-intrinsic cue for the sperm-egg fate decision is present in medaka and that spermatogenesis can proceed in a female gonadal environment." ( Forkhead Transcription Factor foxl3 is an ancient duplicated copy of foxl2 | Oocyte Development | Spermatozoa Development)
  • YAP is essential for tissue tension to ensure vertebrate 3D body shape[4] "Vertebrates have a unique 3D body shape in which correct tissue and organ shape and alignment are essential for function. For example, vision requires the lens to be centred in the eye cup which must in turn be correctly positioned in the head. Tissue morphogenesis depends on force generation, force transmission through the tissue, and response of tissues and extracellular matrix to force. Although a century ago D'Arcy Thompson postulated that terrestrial animal body shapes are conditioned by gravity, there has been no animal model directly demonstrating how the aforementioned mechano-morphogenetic processes are coordinated to generate a body shape that withstands gravity. Here we report a unique medaka fish (Oryzias latipes) mutant, hirame (hir), which is sensitive to deformation by gravity. hir embryos display a markedly flattened body caused by mutation of YAP, a nuclear executor of Hippo signalling that regulates organ size. We show that actomyosin-mediated tissue tension is reduced in hir embryos, leading to tissue flattening and tissue misalignment, both of which contribute to body flattening. By analysing YAP function in 3D spheroids of human cells, we identify the Rho GTPase activating protein ARHGAP18 as an effector of YAP in controlling tissue tension. Together, these findings reveal a previously unrecognised function of YAP in regulating tissue shape and alignment required for proper 3D body shape." Developmental Signals - Hippo
  • The Effects of Rearing Density, Salt Concentration, and Incubation Temperature on Japanese Medaka (Oryzias latipes) Embryo Development[5] "When testing variations in temperature (24°, 28°, and 32°C) and salinity (0.3, 10, 15, and 20 ppt), the onset of heartbeat and onset of retina pigmentation were observed. The original hypotheses were not all supported: as rearing density increased, success of hatch decreased; as salinity increased, only the rate of development for heartbeat increased; as temperature increased, the rate of development for both onset of the heartbeat and retina pigmentation also increased."
  • Osterix-mCherry transgenic medaka for in vivo imaging of bone formation[6]
  • Induction of otic structures by canonical Wnt signalling in medaka.[7]
More recent papers  
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Search term: Medaka Embryology

Qiansheng Huang, Yiyao Liu, Yajie Chen, Chao Fang, Yulang Chi, Huimin Zhu, Yi Lin, Guozhu Ye, Sijun Dong New insights into the metabolism and toxicity of bisphenol A on marine fish under long-term exposure. Environ. Pollut.: 2018, 242(Pt A);914-921 PubMed 30373036

Hirofumi Yokota, Yuri Taguchi, Yuka Tanaka, Mami Uchiyama, Mizuki Kondo, Yukinari Tsuruda, Tomoko Suzuki, Sayaka Eguchi Chronic exposure to diclofenac induces delayed mandibular defects in medaka (Oryzias latipes) in a sex-dependent manner. Chemosphere: 2018, 210;139-146 PubMed 29986219

Changkeun Lee, Bong-Oh Kwon, Seongjin Hong, Junsung Noh, Junghyun Lee, Jongseong Ryu, Seong-Gil Kang, Jong Seong Khim ##Title## Environ. Pollut.: 2018, 241;586-595 PubMed 29885629

Vladimir Soukup, Simona Mrstakova, Zbynek Kozmik Asymmetric pitx2 expression in medaka epithalamus is regulated by nodal signaling through an intronic enhancer. Dev. Genes Evol.: 2018, 228(2);131-139 PubMed 29663064

Kota Abe, Toru Kawanishi, Hiroyuki Takeda Zic Genes in Teleosts: Their Roles in Dorsoventral Patterning in the Somite. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol.: 2018, 1046;141-156 PubMed 29442321


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Development Overview

Adult medaka histology[8]

Development has been characterised by light microscope observation into 39 prehatch stages and 6 posthatch stages.[1]

Prehatch features observed included: number and size of blastomeres, form of the blastoderm, extent of epiboly, central nervous system, number and form of somites, optic and otic, notochord, heart, blood circulation, the size and movement of the body, tail, membranous fin (fin fold), viscera (liver gallbladder, gut tube), spleen and swim (air) bladder.

Posthatch features observed included: fins, scales and secondary sexual characteristics.

Developmental Stages

Stage Time Event
0 Unfertilized eggs
1 3 min Activated egg
2 Blastodisc
3 1 h 5 min 2 cell
4 1 h 45 min 4 cell
5 2 h 20 min 8 cell
6 2 h 55 min 16 cell
7 3 h 30 min 32 cell
8 4 h 5 min Early morula
9 5 h 15 min Late morula
10 6 h 30 min Early blastula
11 8 h 15 min Late blastula
12 10 h 20 min Pre-early gastrula
13 13 h Early gastrula
14 15 h Pre-mid-gastrula
15 17 h 30 min Mid-gastrula
16 21 h Late gastrula
17 1 day 1 h Early neurula (head formation)
18 1 day 2 h Late neurula (optic bud formation)
19 1 day 3 h 30 min 2 somite
20 1 day 7 h 30 min 4 somite
21 1 day 10 h 6 somite (brain regionalization and otic vesicle formation)
22 1 day 14 h 9 somite (appearance of heart anlage)
23 1 day 17 h 12 somite (formation of tubular heart)
24 1 day 20 h 16 somite (start of heart beating)
25 2 days 2 h 18–19 somite (onset of blood circulation)
26 2 days 6 h 22 somite (development of guanophores and vacuolization of the notochord)
27 2 days 10 h 24 somite (appearance of pectoral fin bud)
28 2 days 16 h 30 somite (onset of retinal pigmentation)
29 3 days 2 h 34 somite (internal ear formation)
30 3 days 10 h 35 somite (blood vessel development)
31 3 days 23 h Gill blood vessel formation
32 4 days 5 h Somite completion (formation of pronephros and air bladder)
33 4 days 10 h at which notochord vacuolization is completed
34 5 days 1 h Pectoral fin blood circulation
35 5 days 12 h at which visceral blood vessels form
36 6 days Heart development
37 7 days Pericardial cavity formation
38 8 days Spleen development (differentiation of caudal fin begins)
39 9 days Hatching
40 1st fry

National BioResource Project Medaka

The National BioResource Project Medaka (NBRP Medaka): an integrated bioresource for biological and biomedical sciences[9]"The Japanese government has supported the development of Medaka Bioresources since 2002. The second term of the Medaka Bioresource Project started in 2007. The National Institute for Basic Biology and Niigata University were selected as the core organizations for this project. More than 400 strains including more than 300 spontaneous and induced mutants, 8 inbred lines, 21 transgenic lines, 20 medaka-related species and 66 wild stock lines of medaka are now being provided to the scientific community and educational non-profit organizations. In addition to these live fish, NBRP Medaka is also able to provide cDNA/EST clones such as full-length cDNA and BAC/fosmid clones covering 90% of the medaka genome."

Links: National BioResource Project Medaka (NBRP Medaka)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Takashi Iwamatsu Stages of normal development in the medaka Oryzias latipes. Mech. Dev.: 2004, 121(7-8);605-18 PubMed 15210170
  2. Takanobu Inoue, Atsuo Iida, Shingo Maegawa, Atsuko Sehara-Fujisawa, Masato Kinoshita Generation of a transgenic medaka (Oryzias latipes) strain for visualization of nuclear dynamics in early developmental stages. Dev. Growth Differ.: 2016; PubMed 27759163
  3. Toshiya Nishimura, Tetsuya Sato, Yasuhiro Yamamoto, Ikuko Watakabe, Yasuyuki Ohkawa, Mikita Suyama, Satoru Kobayashi, Minoru Tanaka foxl3 is a germ cell-intrinsic factor involved in sperm-egg fate decision in medaka. Science: 2015; PubMed 26067255 | Science.
  4. Sean Porazinski, Huijia Wang, Yoichi Asaoka, Martin Behrndt, Tatsuo Miyamoto, Hitoshi Morita, Shoji Hata, Takashi Sasaki, S F Gabriel Krens, Yumi Osada, Satoshi Asaka, Akihiro Momoi, Sarah Linton, Joel B Miesfeld, Brian A Link, Takeshi Senga, Atahualpa Castillo-Morales, Araxi O Urrutia, Nobuyoshi Shimizu, Hideaki Nagase, Shinya Matsuura, Stefan Bagby, Hisato Kondoh, Hiroshi Nishina, Carl-Philipp Heisenberg, Makoto Furutani-Seiki YAP is essential for tissue tension to ensure vertebrate 3D body shape. Nature: 2015, 521(7551);217-21 PubMed 25778702
  5. Bethany J Rosemore, Cynthia A Welsh The effects of rearing density, salt concentration, and incubation temperature on Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) embryo development. Zebrafish: 2012, 9(4);185-90 PubMed 23244689
  6. Joerg Renn, Christoph Winkler Osterix-mCherry transgenic medaka for in vivo imaging of bone formation. Dev. Dyn.: 2009, 238(1);241-8 PubMed 19097055
  7. Baubak Bajoghli, Narges Aghaallaei, Gerlinde Jung, Thomas Czerny Induction of otic structures by canonical Wnt signalling in medaka. Dev. Genes Evol.: 2009, 219(8);391-8 PubMed 19760182
  8. PLoS One.
  9. Takao Sasado, Minoru Tanaka, Kayo Kobayashi, Tadashi Sato, Mitsuru Sakaizumi, Kiyoshi Naruse The National BioResource Project Medaka (NBRP Medaka): an integrated bioresource for biological and biomedical sciences. Exp. Anim.: 2010, 59(1);13-23 PubMed 20224166


Daniel Liedtke, Isabell Erhard, Manfred Schartl snail gene expression in the medaka, Oryzias latipes. Gene Expr. Patterns: 2010, 11(3-4);181-9 PubMed 21094700

Akihiro Shima, Hiroshi Mitani Medaka as a research organism: past, present and future. Mech. Dev.: 2004, 121(7-8);599-604 PubMed 15210169

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2018, December 12) Embryology Medaka Development. Retrieved from

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