1. A description is given of the main features of the central nervous system of Myxicola infundibulum Rénier.
2. The nerve-cord is double in the first four thoracic segments and single posteriorly. It shows segmental swellings but is not ganglionated in the usual sense in that nerve-cell accumulations are not related directly to such swellings of the cord.
3. A very large axon lies within the dorsal portion of the nerve-cord and extends from the supra-oesophageal ganglia to the posterior end of the animal. It is small in the head ganglia where it passes transversely across the mid-line, increases in diameter in the oesophageal connectives, and expands to very large size, up to 1 mm., in the posterior thorax and anterior abdomen, and gradually tapers off to about 100µ in the posterior body. It shows segmental swellings corresponding to those of the nerve-cord in each segment. It occupies about 27 per cent, of the volume of the central nervous system and 0.3 per cent, of the volume of the animal. The diameter of the fibre increases during contraction of the worm.
4. The giant fibre is a continuous structure throughout its length, without internal dividing membranes or septa. Usually a branch of the giant fibre lies in each half of the nerve-cord in the anterior thoracic segments and these several branches are continuous with one another longitudinally and transversely.
5. The giant fibre is connected with nerve-cells along its entire course; it arises from a pair of cells in the supra-oesophageal ganglia, and receives the processes of many nerve-cells in each segment. There is no difference between the nerve-cells of the giant fibre and the other nerve-cells of the cord.
6. A distinct fibrous sheath invests the giant fibre. A slight concentration of lipoid can be revealed in this sheath by the use of Sudan black.
7. About eight peripheral branches arise from the giant fibre in each segment. They have a complex course in the nerve-cord where they anastomose with one another and receive the processes of nerve-cells. Peripherally, they are distributed to the longitudinal musculature.
8. Specimens surviving 16 days following section of the nerve-cord in the thorax have shown that the giant fibre does not degenerate in front of or behind a cut, thus confirming that it is a multicellular structure connected to nerve-cells in the thorax and abdomen.
9. It is concluded that the giant fibre of M. infundibulum is a large syncytial structure, extending throughout the entire central nervous system and the body-wall of the animal.
10. The giant fibre system of M. aesthetica resembles that of M. infundibulum.
11. Some implications of the possession of such a giant axon are discussed. It is suggested that its size, structure, and simplicity lead to rapid conduction and thus effect a considerable saving of reaction time, of considerable value to the species when considered in the light of the quick contraction which it mediates. The adoption of a sedentary mode of existence has permitted this portion of the central nervous system to become developed at the expense of other elements concerned with errant habits.
- Copyright © 1948 by the Company of Biologists Ltd.