Structure and function in the excretory systems of some terrestrial prosobranch snails (Cyclophoridae)



The excretory systems of terrestrial prosobranch snails of the family Cyclophoridae, collected in Jamaica, Costa Rica and South Africa, have been examined physiologically and as regards their gross and fine structure. The process of urine formation commences in the heart, where fluid is filtered across the wall of the ventricle. Filtration through the auricular wall is believed to be negligible. The kidney, which contains three types of cell, modifies the composition of the filtrate. One type of resorptive cell, characterized by basal infoldings associated with mitochondria, takes up salts. Another type, with basal subcellular spaces, may be responsible for taking up water. The third type of cell is secretory, producing concretions of uric acid and phospholipid which are liberated into the kidney lumen when the cell degenerates.

The rate and mechanism of urine production have been investigated using injections of inulin. The filtration rate at 25°C is 0.5 μl/g/min, and in 100% R.H. the average rate of urine production is 0–39 μl/g/min.

An accessory excretory organ has been developed from the hypobranchial gland of aquatic forms. It is composed of groups of subepithelial tubular glands opening into the mantle cavity by one or a series of pores, and secreting purines, phospholipids and mucus. There is evidence that this organ becomes progressively more complex in forms occupying drier habitats.

The systems of excretion and osmoregulation in the Cyclophoridae are considered to be very similar to those in their aquatic relatives, the Viviparidae and Ampullariidae. Certainly the cyclophorids are not as well adapted to a terrestrial life as are the Pulmonata, and in many respects they may be considered “aquatic” snails living on land.