The gravity receptor organs of gastropod molluscs, such as Aplysia californica, are bilateral paired statocysts, which contain dense statoconia within a fluid-filled cyst. Gravitational forces on the statoconia are sensed through their interaction with ciliated mechanoreceptor cells in the wall of the cyst. Larval Aplysia contain a single statolith within each statocyst; when the animals grow to a critical size, they begin producing multiple statoconia, a process that continues throughout life. The number of statoconia is highly correlated with animal weight but poorly correlated with age, indicating that stone production is related to total metabolism. The single statolith has an amorphous internal structure whereas the multiple statoconia have calcification deposited on concentric layers of membrane or matrix protein. The statolith appears to be produced within the cyst lumen but the multiple statoconia are produced within supporting cells between the receptor cells. Large adult animals have statoconia larger than those in early post-metamorphic animals which have just started producing multiple stones. The maximum statocyst diameter at which the receptor-cell cilia can suspend the statolith in the center of the cyst lumen is 45 μm; production of multiple stones begins when the cyst reaches this size. The mechanisms by which statoconia production is initiated and controlled are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems