Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 185, Issue 1, pp 17-42

First online:

Brachiopod tentacles: Ultrastructure and functional significance of the connective tissue and myoepithelial cells in Terebratalia

  • Christopher G. ReedAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Washington
  • , Richard A. CloneyAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Washington

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The fine structure of the tentacles of the articulate brachiopod Terebratalia transversa has been studied by light and electron microscopy. The epidermis consists of a simple epithelium that is ciliated in frontal and paired latero-frontal or latero-abfrontal longitudinal tracts. Bundles of unsheathed nerve fibers extend longitudinally between the bases of the frontal epidermal cells and appear to end on the connective tissue cylinder; no myoneural junctions were found. The acellular connective tissue cylinder in each tentacle is composed of orthogonal arrays of collagen fibrils embedded in an amorphous matrix. Baffles of parallel crimped collagen fibrils traverse the connective tissue cylinder in regions where it buckles during flexion of the tentacle.

The tentacular peritoneum consists of four cell types: 1) common peritoneal cells that line the lateral walls of the coelomic canal, 2) striated and 3) smooth myoepithelial cells that extend along the frontal and abfrontal sides of the coelomic canal, and 4) squamous smooth myoepithelial cells that comprise the tentacular blood channel.

Experimental manipulations of a tentacle indicate that its movements are effected by the interaction of the tentacular contractile apparatus and the resilience of the supportive connective tissue cylinder. The frontal contractile bundle is composed of a central group of striated fibers and two lateral groups of smooth fibers which function to flex the tentacle and to hold it down, respectively. The small abfrontal group of smooth myoepithelial cells effects the re-extension of the tentacle, in conjunction with the passive resiliency of the connective tissue cylinder and the concomitant relaxation of the frontal contractile bundle.

Key words

Brachiopod tentacles Connective tissue Myoepithelial cells Ultrastructure