, Volume 112, Issue 3, pp 143–153

The compass depressors ofParacentrotus lividus (Echinodermata, Echinoida): ultrastructural and mechanical aspects of their variable tensility and contractility


  • I. C. Wilkie
    • Department of Biological SciencesGlasgow Polytechnic
  • Candia Carnevali
    • Dipartimento di Biologia “Luigi Gorini”Università degli Studi di Milano
  • F. Bonasoro
    • Dipartimento di Biologia “Luigi Gorini”Università degli Studi di Milano

DOI: 10.1007/BF01633105

Cite this article as:
Wilkie, I.C., Carnevali, C. & Bonasoro, F. Zoomorphology (1992) 112: 143. doi:10.1007/BF01633105


The compass depressors are bands of soft tissue which connect the compass ossicles of the echinoid lantern to the inner edge of the test. They are essentially ligaments with on one side a thin layer of muscle cells. The ligamentous component consists mainly of a parallel array of collagen fibrils with interspersed 12 nm microfibrils. The most notable cellular constituents are granule-containing cell bodies and their processes which resemble the juxtaligamental cells that have been found in all echinoderm mutable collagenous tissues and which may control the tensility of these tissues. The muscle cells occupy about 8% of the total cross-sectional area of the compass depressor and are located in a richly innervated pseudostratified myoepithelium. When subjected to constant low loads in creep tests the compass depressor stretches to a fixed length beyond which there is no further extension. The length at this creep limit coincides with the maximum length to which the compass depressor is stretched by natural movements of the intact lantern. Stress-strain tests show that treatment with 1 mM acetylcholine or 100 mM K+ ions can increase reversibly the stiffness of the compass depressor to an extent that cannot be due to contraction of the myoepithelium, suggesting that the mechanical properties of the ligament are under physiological control. Tension-length data on the myoepithelium suggest that it generates a maximum active tension when the compass depressor is stretched to the creep limit. The implications of these results for the function of the compass depressors are discussed.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992