Ultrastructure of the frontal organ in Convoluta and Macrostomum spp.: significance for models of the turbellarian archetype

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Present models of turbellarian evolution depict the organism with a frontal organ — a complex of glands whose necks emerge at the anterior tip of the body — and therefore imply that this organ is homologous throughout the Turbellaria. However, comparisons of representatives of the Acoela and Macrostomida, two putatively primitive orders of the Turbellaria, show that frontal organs in these two are not similar in ultrastructure or histochemistry. The acoel Convoluta ‘pulchra’ had a prominent cluster of frontal mucous glands whose necks emerged together in a frontal pore at the exact apical pole of the organism, and an array of smaller glands of at least five other types opened at the anterior end, separately from and ventral to this pore. The ‘frontal organs’ (Stirndrüsen) of two species of Macrostomum on the other hand, comprised an array of discretely emerging necks of at least two gland types including one with rhabdiform (rhammite) and one with globular mucous secretion granules neither of which emerge at the apical pole. In neither species did the organ appear to be sensory. Our findings indicate a low probability of homology between the frontal glands of the Acoela and Macrostomida.

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Klauser, M.D., Smith, J.P.S. & Tyler, S. Ultrastructure of the frontal organ in Convoluta and Macrostomum spp.: significance for models of the turbellarian archetype. Hydrobiologia 132, 47–52 (1986).

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  • Turbellaria
  • frontal organ
  • mucus gland
  • sensory
  • Acoela
  • Macrostomida