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Keywords:

  • Kinorhyncha;
  • nervous system;
  • confocal laser scanning microscopy;
  • serotonin;
  • Cycloneuralia

Abstract

Cycloneuralian taxa exhibit similar organ system architectures, providing informative characters of metazoan evolution, yet very few modern comparative descriptions of cellular and molecular homologies within and among those taxa are available. We immunolabeled and characterized elements of the serotonergic nervous system in the kinorhynchs Echinoderes spinifurca, Antygomonas paulae, and Zelinkaderes brightae using confocal laser scanning microscopy. Fluorescent markers targeting DNA were combined with observations of auto-fluorescent structures to guide interpretations of the internal and external anatomy in each species. Results show a common pattern of the central nervous system with a circumenteric brain divided into ring-shaped anterior and posterior neuronal somata and a central neuropil connected to a multi-stringed, longitudinal ventral nerve cord. Structural similarities and differences in the nervous systems of these species were observed and described, stressing the incomplete ring nature of the anterior region of the kinorhynch brain, the functional relationship between the brain and the movable introvert, and the number and arrangement of nerve strings and somata of the ventral nerve cord. The ventral cord ends in two ventrolateral cell bodies in E. spinifurca, and forms a terminal loop associated with a midterminal spine in A. paulae and Z. brightae. The possible functional and phylogenetic significance of these features and arrangements are discussed. J. Morphol., 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.