Pigmented eyes, photoreceptor-like sense organs and central nervous system in the polychaete Scoloplos armiger (Orbiniidae, Annelida) and their phylogenetic importance

J Morphol. 2009 Nov;270(11):1296-310. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10758.


The phylogenetic position of Orbiniidae within Annelida is unresolved. Conflicting hypotheses place them either in a basal taxon Scolecida, close to Spionida, or in a basal position in Aciculata. Because Aciculata have a specific type of eye, the photoreceptive organs in the orbiniid Scoloplos armiger were investigated to test these phylogenetic hypotheses. Two different types of prostomial photoreceptor-like sense organs were found in juveniles and one additional in subadults. In juveniles there are four ciliary photoreceptor-like phaosomes with unbranched cilia and two pigmented eyes. The paired pigmented eyes lie beside the brain above the circumoesophageal connectives. Each consists of one pigmented cell, one unpigmented supportive cell and three everse rhabdomeric sensory cells with vestigial cilia. During development the number of phaosomes increases considerably and numerous unpigmented sense organs appear consisting of one rhabdomeric photoreceptor cell and one supportive cell. The development and morphology of the pigmented eyes of S. armiger suggest that they represent miniaturized eyes of the phyllodocidan type of adult eye rather than persisting larval eyes resulting in small inverse eyes typical of Scolecida. Moreover, the structure of the brain indicates a loss of the palps. Hence, a closer relationship of Orbiniidae to Phyllodocida is indicated. Due to a still extensive lack of ultrastructural data among polychaetes this conclusion cannot be corroborated by considering the structure of the unpigmented ciliary and rhabdomeric photoreceptor-like sense organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Annelida* / anatomy & histology
  • Annelida* / classification
  • Annelida* / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Eye / embryology
  • Eye / growth & development
  • Eye / ultrastructure
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / ultrastructure
  • Phylogeny*
  • Pigmentation*
  • Sense Organs / anatomy & histology
  • Sense Organs / physiology