The habenular complex and its associated axonal pathways are often thought of as phylogenetically conserved features of the brain among vertebrates despite the fact that detailed studies of this brain region are limited to a few species. Here, the gross morphology and axonal projection pattern of the habenular complex of an anuran amphibian, the fire-bellied toad Bombina orientalis, was studied to allow comparison with the situation in other vertebrates. Axonal pathways were traced using biocytin applications in dissected brain preparations. The results show that the rostral part of the left dorsal nucleus is enlarged in this species, while the rostral ventral nucleus and caudal parts do not show left-right size differences. Biocytin applications revealed widespread axonal projections of the habenular complex to the posterior tuberculum/dorsal hypothalamic region, ventral tegmentum, interpeduncular nucleus (IPN), and raphe median. Additionally, axons targeting the lateral hypothalamus originated from the ventral habenular nuclei. The results also suggest an asymmetrical pattern of projection to the IPN in the rostral part of the habenular complex, where the left habenula preferentially targeted the dorsal IPN while the right habenula preferentially targeted the ventral IPN. The caudal habenular nuclei showed no asymmetry of projections as both sides targeted the ventral IPN. Comparison of the habenular complex axonal connectivity across vertebrates argues against strong phylogenetic conservation of the axonal projection patterns of different habenular nuclei.

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