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The highly specialised gut of Fritillariidae (Appendicularia: Tunicata)
Brena, C.; Cima, F.; Burighel, P. (2003). The highly specialised gut of Fritillariidae (Appendicularia: Tunicata). Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 143(1): 57-71. hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00227-003-1029-4
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Brena, C.
  • Cima, F.
  • Burighel, P.

Abstract
    The morphology and some functions of the gut of Fritillaria pellucida and Fritillaria formica (Fritillaridae) were investigated by light and electron microscopy, and also by means of histochemical and immunohistochemical techniques. Fritillarids, very important for their abundance and ecological impact in marine ecosystems, have a very simplified gut: a straight oesophagus connects the pharynx to the digestive nucleus, composed of globular stomach and rectum, connected dorsally through a very short proximal intestine. The latter is characterised by a few (two to four) extremely specialised cells, completely filled with mitochondria associated tightly with membrane infoldings showing strong ATP-ase activity, and probably involved in the osmoregulation of internal body fluids. The gut is formed of an extremely low number of cells, which, although poorly diversified, are very large in the stomach and rectum. Food transfer along the gut depends on and is regulated by well-developed cardiac and pyloric valves, and signs of general digestive and absorptive activity are recognisable all along the brush border of the main tracts. The macroscopic organisation and cytological characters of the gut in fritillarids are completely different from those of the oikopleurids. In particular, fritillarids lack specialised cells for endocytosis and intracellular digestion, like those described in the genus Oikopleura. The general simplification and specialisation observed in Fritillaria gut may account for their elevated growth rate and abundant diffusion in all oceans.

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