Skip to main content Accessibility help

A Study on the Digestive Physiology of a Marine Polychaete (Eulalia viridis) through Microanatomical Changes of Epithelia During the Digestive Cycle

  • Ana P. Rodrigo (a1), Maria H. Costa (a1), António Pedro Alves de Matos (a2), Francisco Carrapiço (a3) and Pedro M. Costa (a1)...


As for many invertebrates, the gut of marine polychaete species has key physiological functions. However, studies integrating microanatomical descriptions with physiological processes are scarce. The present investigates histological, histochemical and cytological changes in the alimentary canal during the digestive cycle of the marine annelid Eulalia viridis, a species that combines opportunist scavenging, predation and cannibalistic behavior. The gut is comprised of an eversible pharynx, esophagus, intestine and rectum. Three main phases of digestion were identified, namely, resting/secretory, absorptive and excretory. The intestinal epithelium is complex and exhibited the most significant changes regarding intracellular digestion, excretion and storage. Conversely, the pharynx and esophagus were chiefly important for enzyme secretion. The results also indicate the existence of two distinct types of secretory cells in the intestine, with likely distinct physiological roles. Some similarities have been found between the intestinal epithelia and the molluscan (especially cephalopod) digestive gland, as, for instance, the shedding of apical corpuscles by digestive cells at posterior stages of digestion. The findings indicate that the digestive process in this worm is complex and related to the many physiological roles that cells need to play in the presence of reduced organ differentiation.


Corresponding author

* Corresponding author.


Hide All
Bartolomaeus, T., Purschke, G. & Hausen, H. (2005). Polychaete phylogeny based on morphological data—A comparison of current attempts. Hydrobiologia 535/536, 341356.
Boucaud-Camou, E. & Yim, M. (1980). Fine structure and function of the digestive cell of Sepia officinalis (Mollusca: Cephalopoda). J Zool Lond 191, 89105.
Costa, P.M., Carrapiço, F., Alves De Matos, A.P. & Costa, M.H. (2013). A microscopical study of the “chlorophylloid” pigment cells of the marine polychaete Eulalia viridis (L.). Microsc Microanal 19, 1516.
Costa, P.M. & Costa, M.H. (2012). Development and application of a novel histological multichrome technique on whole-body clam histopathology. J Invert Pathol 110, 411414.
Costa, P.M., Rodrigo, A.P. & Costa, M.H. (2014). Microstructural and histochemical advances on the digestive gland of the common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis L. Zoomorphology 133, 5969.
Emson, R.H. (1977). The feeding and consequent role of Eulalia viridis (O. F. Muller) (Polychaeta) in intertidal communities. J Mar Biol Ass UK 57, 9396.
Fauchald, K. & Jumars, P.A. (1979). The diet of worms: a study of polychaete feeding guilds. Oceanogr Mar Biol Ann Rev 17, 193284.
Fisher, D.B. (1968). Protein staining of ribboned Epon sections for light microscopy. Histochem Cell Biol 16, 9296.
Gram, C. (1884). Ueber die isolirte färbung der schizomyceten in schnitt-und trockenpräparaten. Fortschr Med 2, 185189.
Jenkins, C.D., Ward, M.E., Turnipseed, M., Osterberg, J. & Van Dover, C.L. (2002). The digestive system of the hydrothermal vent polychaete Galapagomystides aristata (Phyllodocidae): evidence for hematophagy? Invertebr Biol 121, 243254.
Kennedy, G.Y. & Nicol, J.A.C. (1959). Pigments of Chaetopterus variopedatus (Polychaeta). Proc R Soc Lond B 150, 509538.
Kiernan, J.A. (2008). Histological and Histochemical Methods. Theory and Practice. 4th ed. Bloxham: Scion Publishing.
Marsden, J.R. (1968). Routes of excretion of particulate waste in the polychaete, Hermodice carunculata . Can J Zool 46, 619624.
Martoja, R. & Martoja, M. (1967). Initiation aux Techniques de l’Histologie Animal. Paris, France: Masson.
Michel, C. (1964). Histologie, histochimie et innervation de la trompe d'Eulalia viridis (Müller), (Polychètes Errantes Phyllodocidae). Bull Lab Mar Dinard 49–50, 6295.
Michel, C. (1968). Enzymes digestives de la trompe d'Eulalia viridis (Müller) (Phyllodocidae) et de Glycera convoluta (Keferstein) (Glyceridae) annélides polychètes errantes. Ann Histochim 13, 123134.
Michel, C. (1969 a). Ultrastructure et histochimie de la cuticule pharyngienne chez Eulalia viridis Müller, (Annélide Polychète Errante, Phyllodocidae): Étude de ses rapports avec l'épithélium sous-jacent dans le cycle digestif. Z Zellforsch 98, 5473.
Michel, C. (1969 b). Enzymes digestives intestinales d'Eulalia viridis (Müller) (Phyllodocidae) et de Glycera convoluta (Keferstein) (Glyceridae) annélides polychètes errantes. Ann Histochim 14, 6778.
Michel, C. (1970). Rôle physiologique de la trompe chez quatre annélides polychétes appartenent aux genres: Eulalia, Phyllodoce, Glycera et Notomastus . Cah Biol Mar 9, 209228.
Michel, C. (1977). Tissular localization of the digestive proteases in the sedentary polychaetous annelid Sabellaria alveolata . Mar Biol 44, 265273.
Moltschaniwskyj, N.A. & Johnston, D. (2006). Evidence that lipid can be digested by the dumpling squid Euprymna tasmanica, but is not stored in the digestive gland. Mar Biol 149, 565572.
Morton, B. (2011). Predator-prey-scavenging interactions between Nucella lapillus, Carcinus maenas and Eulalia viridis all exploiting Mytilus galloprovincialis on a rocky shore recovering from tributyl-tin (TBT) pollution. J Nat Hist 45, 23972417.
Olive, P.J.W. (1975). Reproductive biology of Eulalia viridis (Müller) (Polychaeta: Phyllodocidae) in the North Eastern U.K. J Mar Biol Ass UK 55, 313326.
Pilgrim, M. (1965). The functional anatomy and histology of the alimentary canal of the maldanid polychaetes Clymenella torquata and Euclymene oerstedi . J Zool 147, 387405.
Rouse, G.W. (1988). An ultrastructural study of the spermatozoa of Eulalia sp. (Phyllodocidae), Lepidonotus sp. (Polynoidae), Lumbrineris sp. (Lumbrineridae) and Owenia fusiformis (Oweniidae). Helgolander Meeresun 42, 6778.
Saulnier-Michel, C. (1992). Polychaeta: Digestive system. In Microscopic Anatomy of Invertebrates Vol. 7: Annelida, Harrison, F.W. & Gardiner, S.L. (Eds.), pp. 5369. Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley-Liss.
Saulnier-Michel, C., Gail, F., Hily, A., Alberic, P. & Cosson-Manney, M.A. (1990). Structure and functions of the digestive tract of Alvinella pompejana, a hydrothermal vent polychaete. Can J Zool 68, 722732.
Semmens, J.M. (2002). Changes in the digestive gland of the loliginid squid Sepioteuthis lessoniana (Lesson 1830). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 274, 1939.
Sutton, M.F. (1957). The feeding mechanism, functional morphology and histology of the alimentary canal of Terebella lapidaria L. (Polychaeta). Proc Zool Soc Lond 129, 487523.
Swift, K., Johnston, D. & Moltschaniwskyj, N. (2005). The digestive gland of the southern dumpling squid (Euprymna tasmanica): structure and function. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 315, 177186.
Tzetlin, A. & Purschke, G. (2005). Pharynx and intestine. In Morphology, Molecules, Evolution and Phylogeny in Polychaeta and Related Taxa, Bartolomaeus, T. & Purschke, G. (Eds.), pp. 199225. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
Tzetlin, A.B., Purschke, G., Westheidet, W. & Saphonov, M.V. (1992). Ultrastructure of enteronephridia and general description of the alimentary canal in Trochonerilla mobilis and Nerillidium troglochaetoides (Polychaeta, Nerillidae). Acta Zool Stockholm 73, 163176.
Weigert, A., Helm, C., Meyer, M., Nickel, B., Arendt, D., Hausdorf, B., Santos, S.R., Halanych, K.M., Purschke, G., Bleidorn, C. & Struck, T.H. (2014). Illuminating the base of the annelid tree using transcriptomics. Mol Biol Evol 31, 13911401.
Welsch, U. & Storch, V. (1970). Histochemical and fine structural observations on the alimentary tract of Aphroditidae and Nephtyidae (Polychaeta Errantia). Mar Biol 6, 142147.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

A Study on the Digestive Physiology of a Marine Polychaete (Eulalia viridis) through Microanatomical Changes of Epithelia During the Digestive Cycle

  • Ana P. Rodrigo (a1), Maria H. Costa (a1), António Pedro Alves de Matos (a2), Francisco Carrapiço (a3) and Pedro M. Costa (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.