Patterns of musculature as taxonomic characters for the Turbellaria Acoela

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Abstract

While turbellarians are generally assumed to have body-wall musculature consisting routinely of longitudinal, circular, and diagonal fibers, members of the Acoela examined by a fluorescence-microscopy technique specific for actin showed more complicated and distinctive arrangements of muscles, giving promise for better delimiting taxa within this taxonomically difficult order. Certain globose or tear-drop-shaped worms such as Convoluta pulchra and species of Pseudaphanostoma, Mecynostomum, and Otocelis, showed a complex pattern in which muscles longitudinal in the anterior half of the body arc diagonally across the posterior half; complex brushes of parenchymal muscles that cross at the level of the statocyst and arc postero-laterally also characterize these groups. The more elongate acoel Paratomella sp. was found to have musculature dominated by strictly longitudinal fibers and with relatively weak circular fibers and few fibers running diagonally to the body axis, yet the elongate mecynostomid Paedomecynostomum bruneum showed a crossing of antero-longitudinal fibers similar to that seen in the more globose Mecynostomum sp. A distinctive looping of muscles around the mouth is seen in P. bruneum and the Anaperidae. Such similarities and differences in pattern of musculature promise to provide easily recognizable characters for taxonomy of the Acoela at levels ranging from species to family.

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