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The fine structure of the echinoderm cuticle and the subcuticular bacteria of echinoderms






Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 59(3-4): 169-186

The fine structure of the echinoderm cuticle and the subcuticular bacteria of echinoderms

A cuticle, consisting of fibrous and sometimes granular material, covers the epidermal cells of crinoids, echinoids, asteroids, ophiuroids and holothurians. The tendency for the echinoderm cuticle to dissolve during fixation in phosphate-buffered glutaraldehyde accounts for several previous reports that echinoderms have no cuticle. Depending on the species, there are from 1-3 cuticular sublayers. Abundant epidermal microvilli penetrate the cuticle of crinoids, echinoids and asteroids, but such microvilli are rare in ophiuroids and holothurians. The ophiuroid cuticle is especially modified, since numerous pinched-off tips of microvilli are included in its outer layer, and its inner layer may be very thick. The discussion includes speculations on cuticle evolution, with special reference to the deuterostomes. Each echinoderm studied, except the 2 holothurians, harbors 1 or 2 morphological types of bacteria between the cuticle and the epidermal cells and/or embedded in the inner layer of the cuticle. These subcuticular bacteria are spindle-shaped in Antedon, spiral in Echinocardium, encapsulated rods in Ophiothrix, rods in Ophiura and a mixture of rods and spirals in both Psammechinus and Astropecten. The possible significance of this widespread, specific and apparently non-pathologic association between echinoderms and their subcuticular bacteria is discussed.

Accession: 006677686

DOI: 10.1111/j.1463-6395.1978.tb01032.x

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