Water drift and tidal rise make the use of bonding mechanisms beneficial for small benthopelagic or interstitial marine animals. Chemical adhesives for attachment are very common in molluscs; however, only a few cephalopods have glue producing organs. The family Idiosepiidae is characterized by an epithelial adhesive organ (AO) located on the posterior part of the dorsal mantle area. Previous morphological and histological studies described three non-glandular cell types (basal, interstitial and fusiform cells) and three glandular cell types (goblet, columnar and granular cells) containing protein and carbohydrate components. However, these studies provide different information about the nomenclature and characteristics of the cell types. The present ultrastructural analyses and a 3D reconstruction of the AO of Idiosepius pygmaeus and Idiosepius biserialis therefore serve to investigate the cell distribution, the fine structure of the cells and possible interactions between the cells.We found that basal cells form a continuous cell layer along the basal membrane, overlapped by the other epithelial cells. Embedded in microvilli-covered interstitial cells the glandular cells are more or less evenly distributed within the AO. Goblet and granular cells are solitary glandular cells without conspicuous morphological characteristics, whereas the columnar cells are arranged in dense aggregations of 5–15 cells. Each columnar cell is enclosed by a narrow supporting interstitial cell which contains dense longitudinal filament strands. The secretory process of the cells in the aggregation is synchronized. Each columnar cell aggregate bears approximately two ciliated sensory fusiform cells. The fusiform cells are connected to a neuronal network, aligned along the epithelium base.The results suggest that the bonding system is affected by two secretory cell types (granular and columnar cells). Both are similar in content, synthesis and secretory process but columnar cells are embedded in a particular cell environment. It is unclear in what way this arrangement is associated with the function of the AO. The neurons in several parts of the AO point to a neuronal control of the bonding mechanism. Comparisons with the AO cells of other cephalopods provide no indications for a morphological relationship between the adhesive systems.
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