, Volume 127, Issue 1, pp 1–20 | Cite as

Ultrastructure of protonephridia in Xenotrichula carolinensis syltensis and Chaetonotus maximus (Gastrotricha: Chaetonotida): comparative evaluation of the gastrotrich excretory organs

  • Alexander Kieneke
  • Wilko H. Ahlrichs
  • Pedro Martínez Arbizu
  • Thomas Bartolomaeus
Original Paper


In an attempt to obtain detailed information on the entire protonephridial system in Gastrotricha, we have studied the protonephridial ultrastructure of two paucitubulatan species, Xenotrichula carolinensis syltensis and Chaetonotus maximus by means of complete sets of ultrathin sections. In spite of some differences in detail, the morphology of protonephridia in both examined species shows a common pattern: Both species have one pair of protonephridia that consist of a bicellular terminal organ, a voluminous, aciliar canal cell and an adjacent, aciliar nephridiopore cell. The terminal organ consists of two monociliar terminal cells each with a distal cytoplasmic lobe. These lobes interdigitate and surround cilia and microvilli of the terminal cells. Where both lobes interdigitate, a meandering cleft is formed that is covered by the filtration barrier. We here term the entire structure composite filter. The elongated, in some regions convoluted protonephridial lumen opens distally to the outside via a permanent nephridiopore. A comparison with the protonephridia of other species of the Gastrotricha allows hypothesising the following autapomorphies of the Paucitubulata: The bicellular terminal organ with a composite filter, the convoluted distal canal cell lumen and the absence of cilia, ciliary basal structures and microvilli within the canal cell. Moreover, this comparative survey could confirm important characteristics of the protonephridial system assumed for the ground pattern of Gastrotricha like, for example, the single terminal cell with one cilium surrounded by eight microvilli.


Gastrotricha Paucitubulata Phylogenetic implications Protonephridial system Ultrastructure 



We greatly appreciate the hospitality of the Wadden Sea Station in List/Sylt (Alfred Wegener Institute, AWI) and its staff, who made possible a fruitful stay for collecting marine gastrotrichs. Additionally, we acknowledge PD Dr. Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa for invaluable pieces of advice in the early stages of this project. This research was funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) through a research grant (AH 94/3-1 and -2, MA 2557/4-1 and -2).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Kieneke
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wilko H. Ahlrichs
    • 1
  • Pedro Martínez Arbizu
    • 2
  • Thomas Bartolomaeus
    • 3
  1. 1.Zoosystematik & Morphologie, Institut für Biologie und UmweltwissenschaftenCarl von Ossietzky Universität OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  2. 2.Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, DZMBWilhelmshavenGermany
  3. 3.Evolution und Systematik der Tiere, FU BerlinBerlinGermany

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