Scanning Electron Microscopy


This paper reviews published materials on statoconia formation in birds, and emphasizes works dealing with the embryonic chick (Gallus domesticus) saccule and utricule. Histological, biochemical and histochemical aspects of forming statoconial membranes and statoconial crystals of mammals are included. Results from our work with chick embryos permitted us to conclude that statoconia probably do not form by seeding of a subunit around central core. Instead, immature statoconia may emerge already formed, from a segmenting mass of organic material that seems to be secreted by the supporting cells of the saccular and utricular maculae. Crystallization of each statoconium may involve seeding of multiple subunits around many nucleation centers in the organic matrix. Following these processes, calcium (sometimes granular) attaches to immature statoconia and become subsequently incorporated between the fibrils of the organic matrix starting at the peripheral zone and advancing toward the central core. Our transmission electron microscopy findings, histochemistry and X-ray microanalysis complements of other investigators, who used chicks with light microscopic studies. These results agree with the notion that the secretion of an organic matrix constitutes the first step toward the formation of the statoconial membrane and statoconia. We show ultra-structurally how statoconia may be assembled from the organic matrix before they acquire their characteristic geometric shapes.

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