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Spinning a Marine Silk for the Purpose of Tube-Building

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Amphipod silk is a fibrous, self-secreted, adhesive substance employed in tube-building by amphipod species within the Corophiidea, Ampeliscoidea and Aetiopedidea. In the present study we provide a detailed characterisation of a novel, marine-based silk production system situated in pereiopods 3 and 4 in the corophioid Crassicorophium bonellii and the aorid Lembos websteri. The silk material is a mixture of protein and mucopolysaccharides. Ultrastructural and histological analyses revealed that silk in both species is produced in several rosette-type glands, presumed to be of two different types. These glands are distributed among all limb articles apart from the coxa but mainly in the basis and merus of pereiopods 3 and 4. Secretion commences in the basis and a thread-like secretion product leaves the glandular pereiopod through a cuticular pore near the dactylar tip. The silk’s physical and chemical properties most likely change while moving through the dactylar duct, which subdivides into several small ductules and terminates in a spindle-shaped chamber. This chamber, which communicates with the exterior, may be considered a silk reservoir in which the silk appears fibrous. For the first time an independently evolved, marine arthropod silk processing and secretion system is described.

Affiliations: 1: 1University Marine Biological Station Millport, University of London, KA28 0EG Isle of Cumbrae, UK; 2: 2Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick, E2L 4L5 Saint John, Canada; 3: 3Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, OX1 3PS Oxford, UK


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