Photoreceptive organs in larvae of Spionidae (Annelida) and Sipuncula


Alvaro E. Migotto, Centro de Biologia Marinha, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Manoel H. do Rego km 131.5, 11600-000, São Sebastião, SP, Brazil.


A pair of spherical unpigmented ocelli in addition to pigmented eyes have been observed in the anterior part of the prostomium in larvae of more than 40 species of Spionidae examined alive with light microscopy. Ocelli become visible in larvae at the one- to three-segment stage, increase in size as growth proceeds, and probably disintegrate in the course of metamorphosis because they were not observed in adults and settled juveniles. One pair of transparent, spherical bodies is also found in the anterior part of the head of planktotrophic pelagosphera larvae of Sipuncula. These bodies are in a similar position and have a similar appearance and size to unpigmented ocelli in Spionidae larvae. A pair of epidermal invaginations, densely covered with short cilia, is also observed antero-laterally in the head in pelagospheras of one species. These invaginations appear similar to the nuchal organs present in many polychaete larvae. Photoreceptive organs so far reported for sipunculan larvae comprise only pigmented eyes. Unpigmented ocelli and nuchal organs have never been reported in pelagospheras. Further ultrastructural investigations on sipunculan larvae are encouraged to clarify the composition, function and morphogenesis of transparent, spherical bodies and ciliated invaginations in the anterior part of the head. Such investigations may help to better understand the nature of photoreceptive structures and nuchal organs in Sipuncula, and also contribute to phylogenetic hypotheses regarding relationships of the Sipuncula and Annelida.