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Keywords:

  • common gull;
  • pineal gland;
  • pinealocyte;
  • histology;
  • ultrastructure

Abstract

The avian pineal is a directly photosensory organ taking part in the organization of the circadian and seasonal rhythms. It plays an important role in regulation of many behavior and physiological phenomena including migration. The aim of the study was to investigate morphology of the pineal organ in the common gull (Larus canus). The light and electron microscopic studies were performed on the pineals of juvenile birds living in natural conditions of the Baltic Sea coast, which have been untreatably injured during strong storms in autumn and qualified for euthanasia. The investigated pineals consisted of a wide, triangular, superficially localized distal part and a narrow, elongated proximal part, attached via the choroid plexus to the intercommissural region of the diencephalon. The accessory pineal tissue was localized caudally to the choroid plexus. Based on the histological criteria, the organ was classified as the solid-follicular type. Two types of cells of fotoreceptory line were distinguished: rudimentary–receptor pinealocytes and secretory pinealocytes. Both types of cells were characterized by unusual features, which have been not previously described in avian pinealocytes: the presence of paracrystalline structures in the basal processes and their endings, the storage of glycogen in the form of large accumulations and the arrangement of mitochondria in clusters. Further studies on other species of wild water birds dwelling in condition of cold seas are necessary to explain if the described features of pinealocytes are specific for genus Larus, family Laridae or a larger group of water birds living in similar environmental conditions. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.