Nuchal organs in the trochophore of Siboglinum fiordicum (Annelida, Siboglinidae)
Nuchal organs are epidermal sensory structures present in most annelids. Based on one of the interpretations, they serve in larval settlement. Siboglinids lack nuchal organs in adult and larval stages, however, larvae of some siboglinids inhabiting seeps and hydrothermal vents are capable of swimming up to 100 km away from their home hydrothermal field to colonize a new one. One question that remains is, what organ are siboglinid larvae using to search and locate suitable substrates? To determine if any nuchal organs are present in siboglinid larvae, we studied the head and sensory apparatus in successive larval stages in a frenulate, Siboglinum fiordicum (Webb, 1963), using transmission electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry. In the early trochophore stage, we found an unpaired dorsal organ lying proximal to the posterior prototroch. This organ consists of trochoblast- and “covering” cells. Trochoblasts exhibited serotonin-like immunoreactivity and likely correspond to ciliated supporting cells, where cilia and microvilli project into the olfactory chamber. The “covering” cells are characterized by the presence of large nuclei with numerous pores and thick processes that project into the olfactory chamber, forming the contacts with the trochoblast projections. We have shown for the first time the presence of a nuchal-like organ in annelids as early as the trochophore stage. The presence of this organ in siboglinid trochophores while they are still in the inside the female tube suggests that this structure might be associated with functions other than settlement, such as communication or initiation of the departure from her tube.