Fine structural organization of the hemiellipsoid body of the land hermit crab, Coenobita clypeatus

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Abstract

Electron microscopical observations of the hemiellipsoid bodies of the land hermit crab Coenobita clypeatus resolve microglomerular synaptic complexes that are comparable to those observed in the calyces of insect mushroom bodies and which characterize olfactory inputs onto intrinsic neurons. In an adult hermit crab, intrinsic neurons and one class of efferent neurons originate from neuronal somata of globuli cells covering the hemiellipsoid bodies. Counts of their nucleoli show that about 120,000 globuli cells supply each hemiellipsoid body in an adult hermit crab. This number is comparable to the number of globuli cells supplying mushroom bodies of certain insects, such as honey bees and cockroaches. Counts of axons in tracts leading from the olfactory lobes to the hemiellipsoid bodies resolve 20,000 afferent axons, however, an order of magnitude greater than known for any insect. These afferent axons provide numerous swollen varicosities, each presynaptic to many small profiles, and thus comparable to the microglomeruli that characterize insect mushroom body calyces. Also, common to mushroom bodies and hemiellipsoid bodies are arrangements of intrinsic neurons, afferent neurons containing dense core vesicles, and systems of serial synaptic complexes that relate to postsynaptic profiles of efferent neurons. Together, the ultrastructural organization of the hemiellipsoid bodies of C. clypeatus supports the proposition that this center may share a common origin with the insect mushroom body despite obvious divergent evolution of overall shape. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:2847–2863, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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