, Volume 99, Issue 3, pp 181–220 | Cite as

Comparative ultrastructure of the gastrotrich pharynx and the evolution of myoepithelial foreguts in aschelminthes

  • Edward E. Ruppert


Structural and ultrastructural data are presented for the myoepithelial pharynges of 20 species of Gastrotricha representing the marine Macrodasyida and marine and freshwater Chaetonotida. A comparative analysis reveals that pharynges with several plesiomorphic characters occur in Chordodasys among the Macrodasyida and Neodasys among the Chaetonotida. The Gastrotricha are systematized based on pharyngeal characters and the system is shown to be concordant with all recent classifications of the group. The plesiomorphic design of the Gastrotrich pharynx is given as: a cylindrical pharyngeal pump composed of monociliated myoglanduloepithelial cells surrounding a circular or oval lumen; radial myofibrils organized into several cross-striated sarcomeres with Z-discs composed of planar aggregations of dense bodies; excitation-contraction coupling is achieved by peripheral couplings of SR with the sarcolemma; apical cell surface with microvilli protruding through the two-layered cuticle; pharynx with at least 3 longitudinal tracts of monociliated sensory cells; nerves as at least 4 basal intraepithelial, longitudinal tracts of neurites. As a model for muscle cell evolution, the investigation postulates a monociliated, cross-striated myoglanduloepithelial cell as the original muscle cell design within the Gastrotricha. Triradiate myoepithelial foreguts occur only in Bryozoa (Ectoprocta), Gastrotricha, Nematoda and Tardigrada. The potential homology of pharyngeal organization of the latter three phyla is discussed. Based on pharyngeal structure, it is concluded that Gastrotricha (Chaetonotida-Paucitubulatina) and Nematoda share several apomorphic characters and share, therefore, a most recent common ancestor. Affinities of Tardigrada with Aschelminthes are considered feasible but currently inconclusive for lack of sufficient comparative ultrastructural data for the Tardigrada.


Apical Cell Recent Common Ancestor Planar Aggregation Recent Classification Original Muscle 
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© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward E. Ruppert
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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