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Keywords:

  • Stauromedusae;
  • Medusozoa;
  • body plan;
  • evolution;
  • nematogenesis

ABSTRACT

Stauromedusae have relatively few macromorphological characters, making both their taxonomy and identification difficult. For this reason, histological characters are also employed in the taxonomy of the group. This study presents a detailed description of the histomorphology of Haliclystus antarcticus Pfeffer, 1889 (Cnidaria, Staurozoa). We make new observations for the species and for the class, and address functional, taxonomical, and evolutionary aspects of staurozoan histo-anatomy. A complete reconstruction of H. antarcticus body plan is used to guide a more detailed observation, based on light microscopy, of structures rarely cited in the literature, such as the intertentacular lobules, the ostia between adjacent perradial pockets, and the male and female gonadal vesicles. Two possible regions of nematocyst formation are hypothesized and discussed. We also provide a review of the current use of histological characters in the taxonomy of the group. Understanding the body plan of stauromedusae is a challenge, because each single individual presents characters found in medusae and in polyps of other medusozoans. Comprehensive histological descriptions are important to establish relations of homology within Staurozoa and Cnidaria, providing crucial data on their evolution. J. Morphol. 274:1365–1383, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.