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Ultrastructure of the nuchal organs in the polychaete Platynereis dumerilii (Annelida, Nereididae)

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We examined the nuchal organs of adults of the nereidid polychaete Platynereis dumerilii by means of scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The most prominent features of the nuchal organs are paired ciliary bands located dorsolaterally at the posterior margin of the prostomium. They are composed of primary sensory cells and multiciliated supporting cells, both covered by a thin cuticle. The supporting cells have motile cilia that penetrate the cuticle and are responsible for the movement of water. Subapically, they have a narrowed neck region; the spaces between the neck regions of these supporting cells comprise the olfactory chamber. The dendrites of the sensory cells give rise to a single modified cilium that crosses the olfactory chamber; numerous thin microvillus-like processes, presumably extending from the sensory cells, also traverse the olfactory chamber. At the periphery of the ciliated epithelium runs a large nervous process between the ciliated supporting cells. It consists of smaller bundles of sensory dendrites that unite to form the nuchal nerve, which leaves the ciliated epithelium basally and runs toward the posterior part of the brain, where the perikarya of the sensory cells are located in clusters. The ciliated epithelium of the nuchal organs is surrounded by non-ciliated, peripheral epidermal cells. Those immediately adjacent to the ciliated supporting cells have a granular cuticle; those further away have a smooth cuticle. The nuchal organs of epitokous individuals of P. dumerilii are similar to those described previously in other species of polychaetes and are a useful model for understanding the development of nuchal organs in polychaetes.

Keywords: chemoreception; electron microscopy; sensory epithelium

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute of Zoology and Developmental Biology, Justus-Liebig University of Giessen, 35390 Giessen, Germany

Publication date: June 1, 2010


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