Morphological and experimental studies of the somitomeric organization of the segmental plate in snapping turtle embryos
Packard, D.S.; Meier, S.
Journal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology 84: 35-48
The segmental plate mesoderm of snapping turtle embryos (Chelydra serpentina) was examined with stereoscanning electron microscopy imaging. A metameric pattern was detected along the entire length of the segmental plates. This pattern consisted of a tandem sequence of mesodermal units, called somitomeres. Each somitomere was oval to cubic in shape and the processes of the constituent mesodermal cells tended to be arranged in concentric rings about the centre of the somitomere. Several experiments from a previous study (Packard, 1980b) of snapping turtle segmental plates were repeated, but, instead of culturing the explants and observing the numbers of somites that formed, the explants were fixed immediately for scanning electron microscopy and the number of somitomeres was counted. The segmental plates were found to contain an average of 6.5 +/- 0.7 somitomeres, which is almost identical to the average number of somites formed by such segmental plates when cultured (6.6 +/- 1.2). Furthermore, the number of somitomeres was identical in right and left explants removed from the same embryo, and the number of somitomeres was consistent regardless of the length of the segmental plate. Both of these observations are identical to those made previously for somite formation in culture. This association between numbers of somitomeres and somites strongly suggests that one gives rise to the other. Finally, it was demonstrated that for each somite formed by a segmental plate in culture, the segmental plate contained one less somitomere. This showed in a direct manner that turtle somitomeres become somites. It was concluded that the segmental plate mesoderm of snapping turtle embryos is already segmented, and that the 'segmentation' seen under a dissecting microscope is actually the final stage of somitomere differentiation into an epithelial somite.