Giant neurons and associated synapses in the peripheral nervous system of whip spiders

J Neurocytol. 1980 Aug;9(4):517-35. doi: 10.1007/BF01204840.


Whip spiders (Amblypygi) are arachnids with a specialized first pair of legs. These legs are unusually long (20-25 cm) and are not used for walking. Instead their lengthy tarsi (7-8 cm) are covered with thousands of sensory hairs (mechano- and chemoreceptors). The legs thus resemble antennae of insects. Each sensory hair is associated with 4-40 neurons whose axons are grouped together to form two large tarsal nerves. The nerves contain about 23 000 sensory axons. Whereas most of the axons measure only 0.1-0.2 microns in diameter, a few are exceptionally large (3-20 microns). These are giant fibres. Their large somata are located in specific segments of the tarsi. The branched dendrites of the giant neurons receive hundreds of chemical synapses, presumably from the sensory axons of the hair sensilla. Since stimulation of the tarsal tip elicits fast withdrawal reaction (greater than or equal to 80 ms), it is likely that the giant fibres provide the pathway for the rapid conduction of nerve impulses to the motor centres of the C.N.S. The system is comparable to the giant fibre system of certain insects. In contrast, however, the giant interneurons and associated synapses of whip spiders are not located in the C.N.S., but lie some 20 cm removed in the periphery. Thus, some primary sensory information already becomes processed in the peripheral nervous system, before it reaches the C.N.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Organoids / ultrastructure
  • Scorpions / ultrastructure*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Spiders / ultrastructure*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*