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Keywords:

  • evisceration;
  • digestive system;
  • differentiation;
  • echinoderm;
  • organogenesis

Abstract

Holothurians, or sea cucumbers, exhibit two processes that have intrigued biologists for decades: autotomy and regeneration. Autotomy includes the loss of body parts by evisceration or fission, and regeneration is the extraordinary process by which the lost organs are replaced. In this article, we review the literature on evisceration, transection, and visceral regeneration in holothurians and compare these processes in different orders and lower taxa. Focusing mainly on the digestive tube, we analyze regeneration from a cellular perspective, considering especially the origin, migration, and proliferation of the cellular components of the regenerated organ. The data highlight the most interesting aspects of holothurian regeneration and indicate those critical problems requiring new information and new approaches. Microsc. Res. Tech. 55:438–451, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.