Number and distribution of neurons in leech segmental ganglia

J Comp Neurol. 1980 Mar 15;190(2):283-302. doi: 10.1002/cne.901900206.


The number of neurons and their distribution were determined for specific segmental ganglia from the nerve cord of four different species of leech. Quantitative data were obtained by using computer-aided techniques for the analysis of nerve structure from serially sectioned or whole-mounted tissue. The species studied were Hirudo medicinalis, Macrobdella decora, Haemopis marmorata (family Hirudinidae), and Haementeria ghilianii (family Glossophoniidae). Two sets of ganglia were studied in each species: middle ganglia (9, 10, and 11) and sex ganglia (5 and 6). The middle ganglia, as well as the rest of the 21 segmental ganglia, except 5 and 6, are thought to be quite similar. The sex ganglia are associated with the sexual organs and appear to have more neurons. The data reported here indicate that: a) the number of neurons in a specified ganglion varies by one to two percent from animal to animal of a given species; b) the middle ganglia of a particular leech each have approximately the same number of neurons, with a variation also within two percent; c) the middle ganglia of Hirudo, Macrobdella, and Haemopis have nearly the same number of neurons (about 400), but those of Haementeria have some 20 fewer (about 380); d) the sex ganglia of Hirudo, Macrobdella, and Haemopis have a few hundred more neurons than their middle ganglia, with the exact number varying according to the species, but the sex ganglia in Haementeria have only about 20 more neurons than their middle ganglia; e) the distribution of neuronal somata among glial packets is not symmetric about the midsaggital plane of the animal, and the number of somata in each packet is variable; and f) the geometry of the glial packets is generally invariant, but occasionally packets are found in abnormal positions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Female
  • Ganglia / anatomy & histology*
  • Ganglia / cytology
  • Leeches / anatomy & histology*
  • Leeches / physiology
  • Male
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Reproduction
  • Species Specificity