Ultrastructure of opisthosomal chaetae in Vestimentifera (Pogonophora, Obturata) and implications for phylogeny
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The posterior segmented body region of Vestimentifera bears rows of uncini that function to anchor the animal within its tube. SEM studies of five vestimentiferan species reveal intraspecific and interspecific variation in the number of chaetigerous segments and the arrangement of uncini within a given segment. The portion of an uncinus that extends beyond the epidermis comprises two opposing groups of teeth that probably correspond to the capitium and subrostral process of polychaete uncini, and a distinct protuberance between them, interpreted as a rostrum. In Ridgeia piscesae, the uncini are formed by chaetal follicles, consisting of a chaetoblast, a follicle cell and an epidermis cell. The chaetal shaft is elongate and composed of up to 40 hollow cylinders that are invaded at their base by microvilli from the apical part of the chaetoblast. Opisthosomal chaetae in perviate Pogonophora are usually restricted to four per segment and are of a rod-shaped type. It is hypothesized that the rod-shaped chaetae represent reduced hooked chaetae probably derived from a condition such as found in Monilifera. Uncini of Pogonophora, Sabellida, Terebellida and Oweniida are considered homologous but details of chaetal design may be due to functional adaptations and thus do not represent reliable characters for phylogenetic studies on higher taxonomic levels than genera or potentially families.
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