Scanning Microscopy


Ultrastructural studies of the statocysts and touch-plates of graviceptors (rhopalia) of Aurelia ephyrae revealed that (1) touch-plate hair cells are present; and (2) cytoplasmic strands from the hair cell bases extend from the neurite plexus to touch similar strands from the lithocytes. This close association of hair cell neurites and statocysts may have important implications regarding the transmitting and processing of positional information with respect to the gravity vector.

Graviceptors of ephyrae which developed while weightless in microgravity were compared with controls at the ultrastructural level. We found that hair cells of ephyrae which developed in microgravity had fewer lipid droplets in the large spaces near their bases as compared with 1 g controls. In the ephyrae from the first microgravity experiment, hair cells had more large apical vacuoles with filamentous content than were found in hair cells of ephyrae from the second experiment and controls. The neurite plexus and the network of cytoplasmic strands extending to the statocysts were not different in microgravity-developed ephyrae from controls. Behavioral differences in swimming and orienting in ephyrae in microgravity and controls (reported earlier) were not explained by morphological differences in the hair cells of the touch-plates or the statocysts, although functional differences apparently occurred.

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