Why the Ovotestis of Helix Aspersa is Innervated
Although Schmalz described the innervation of the ovotestis in pulmonate snails as early as 1914, no functions have been attributed to it. In H. aspersa, the intestinal nerve branches profusely within the ovotestis and terminates in the walls of the acini and in the sheath surrounding the early portion of the hermaphroditic duct. We found both sensory and motor functions for this innervation. Significantly, there is a tonic sensory discharge generated by the mechanical pressure of growing oocytes, and the level of tonic afferent activity is strongly correlated with the number of ripe oocytes; this is probably a permissive signal that gates ovulation.
Tactile stimulation of the ovotestis causes a phasic sensory discharge and a pronounced cardio activation. Also, an efferent discharge is elicited in the ovotestis branch of the intestinal nerve. To study the motor consequences of efferent activity, the ovotestis branch was electrically stimulated. We found that such stimulation evokes peristaltic contractions of the initial portion of the hermaphroditic duct and increases beat frequencies of the cilia that line the interior of the duct. These effects could facilitate the transport of oocytes down the duct. Still other functions of afferent activity are implied by changes in the spontaneous activity of mesocerebral cells following nerve stimulation.
Putative sensory neurons and putative motoneurons have been identified in the visceral and right parietal ganglia.
KeywordsOvotestis ovulation oviposition oocytes snails
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