Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Placentation in salps

Placenta of a salp (Salpa fusiformis)
Reproduced from Bone, Pulsford and Amoroso (here)
(C) 1985 with permission from Elsevier
Sea squirts? asked a faithful reader of this blog. OK, sea squirts do not have placentas, but salps do! They, too, are tunicates, and thus included in the sister group to vertebrates (previous post). Whilst sea squirts are mainly sessile, salps are pelagic, living near the surface of oceans and at times more numerous than krill. They are tubular animals and swim by jet propulsion.

The life cycle involves alternation between asexual and sexual generations. The asexual phase (oozooid) develops within the jet chamber of the sexual phase (blastozooid). The image above is from Amoroso's last paper, published almost three years after his death (see previous post for Amo). The placenta consists of two layers: an outer cortex (co) and an inner central layer (c). These separate the embryonic (E) and maternal (M). circulations. Both layers are syncytial and both are maternal in origin. However, embryonic leucocytes pass into and add to the cortical layer.

Blastozooids are hermaphrodite, but the egg develops before the testis matures so is fertilized by sperm from a different blastozooid

HMS Rattlesnake on which Thomas Henry Huxley served as
Assistant Surgeon during the voyage to Australia and New Guinea 1846-50
National Maritime Museum (public domain)
The first English language description of placentation in the Family Salpida was given by T. H. Huxley R.N., "late of HMS Rattlesnake," in 1851 (here) although he cites even earlier work by Cuvier, Chamisso and Meyen.

We tend to think of placentation in terms of mammals, reptiles and fish, but a current paper in Biological Reviews (here) shows that maternal provision of nutrients (matrotrophy) and even placentation is not infrequent in invertebrate phyla.

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