Comparative studies on the circulatory system of the compound ascidians, Botryllus, Botrylloides and Symplegma



The circulatory systems of four polystyelids, Botryllus schlosseri, B. primigenus, Botrylloides violaceus and Symplegma reptans, were compared. The palleal buds are connected to the parent zooid by a peduncle and to the colonial vascular system by connecting vessels. The peduncle of S. reptans disappears at an earlier stage of bud development than in B. primigenus; it survives the dissolution of the parent zooid in B. schlosseri and B. violaceus. The connecting vessel is formed by anastomosis between an epidermal outgrowth from the bud and a neighboring colonial vessel, and is characterized by the presence of a sphincter. The number of connecting vessels formed in a palleal bud is three in S. reptans, two in B. primigenus and one each in B. schlosseri and B. violaceus. In each species, the larva has eight rudiments of ampullae. In B. primigenus, the original ampullae degenerate soon after metamorphosis and new ampullae extend from the ventral epidermis of the oozooid. In the other species, the colonial vascular system is derived from the original ampullae.

The whole colonial vascular system contracts and expands periodically, with regionally different phases. During each expansion cycle, the sphincter contracts once in B. primigenus and twice in S. reptans. The correlation may be due to blood pressure and the propagation of excitation through the colonial vascular system.