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- The Evolution of Man, V.2 - 6/63 -

hypobranchial groove which we have previously found at the same spot in the Amphioxus. The food of the Ascidia also consists of tiny organisms, infusoria, diatoms, parts of decomposed marine plants and animals; etc. These pass with the water into the gill-crate and the digestive part of the gut at the end of it, at first into an enlargement of it that represents the stomach. The adjoining small intestine usually forms a loop, bends forward, and opens by an anus (Figure 2.220 a), not directly outwards, but first into the mantle cavity; from this the excrements are ejected by a common outlet (a apostrophe) together with the used-up water and the sexual products. The outlet is sometimes called the branchial pore, and sometimes the cloaca or ejection-aperture. In many of the Ascidiae a glandular mass opens into the gut, and this represents the liver. In some there is another gland besides the liver, and this is taken to represent the kidneys. The body-cavity proper, or coeloma, which is filled with blood and encloses the hepatic gut, is very narrow in the Ascidia, as in the Amphioxus, and is here also usually confounded with the wide atrium, or peribranchial cavity, full of water.

There is no trace in the fully-developed Ascidia of a chorda dorsalis, or internal axial skeleton. It is the more interesting that the young animal that emerges from the ovum HAS a chorda, and that there is a rudimentary medullary tube above it. The latter is wholly atrophied in the developed Ascidia, and looks like a small nerve-ganglion in front above the gill-crate. It corresponds to the upper "gullet-ganglion" or "primitive brain" in other vermalia. Special sense-organs are either wanting altogether or are only found in a very rudimentary form, as simple optic spots and touch-corpuscles or tentacles that surround the mouth. The muscular system is very slightly and irregularly developed. Immediately under the thin corium, and closely connected with it, we find a thin muscle tube, as in the worms. On the other hand, the Ascidia has a centralised heart, and in this respect it seems to be more advanced than the Amphioxus. On the ventral side of the gut, some distance behind the gill-crate, there is a spindle-shaped heart. It retains permanently the simple tubular form that we find temporarily as the first structure of the heart in the vertebrates. This simple heart of the Ascidia has, however, a remarkable peculiarity. It contracts in alternate directions. In all other animals the beat of the heart is always in the same direction (generally from rear to front); it changes in the Ascidia to the reverse direction. The heart contracts first from the rear to the front, stands still for a minute, and then begins to beat the opposite way, now driving the blood from front to rear; the two large vessels that start from either end of the heart act alternately as arteries and veins. This feature is found in the Tunicates alone.

Of the other chief organs we have still to mention the sexual glands, which lie right behind in the body-cavity. All the Ascidiae are hermaphrodites. Each individual has a male and a female gland, and so is able to fertilise itself. The ripe ova (Figure 2.221 o apostrophe) fall directly from the ovary (o) into the mantle-cavity. The male sperm is conducted into this cavity from the testicle (t) by a special duct (vd). Fertilisation is accomplished here, and in many of the Ascidiae developed embryos are found. These are then ejected with the breathing-water through the cloaca (q), and so "born alive."

If we now glance at the entire structure of the simple Ascidia (especially Phallusia, Cynthia, etc.) and compare it with that of the Amphioxus, we shall find that the two have few points of contact. It is true that the fully-developed Ascidia resembles the Amphioxus in several important features of its internal structure, and especially in the peculiar character of the gill-crate and gut. But in most other features of organisation it is so far removed from it, and is so unlike it in external appearance, that the really close relationship of the two was not discovered until their embryology was studied. We will now compare the embryonic development of the two animals, and find to our great astonishment that the same embryonic form develops from the ovum of the Amphioxus as from that of the Ascidia--a typical chordula.


The structural features that distinguish the vertebrates from the invertebrates are so prominent that there was the greatest difficulty in the earlier stages of classification in determining the affinity of these two great groups. When scientists began to speak of the affinity of the various animal groups in more than a figurative--in a genealogical--sense, this question came at once to the front, and seemed to constitute one of the chief obstacles to the carrying-out of the evolutionary theory. Even earlier, when they had studied the relations of the chief groups, without any idea of real genealogical connection, they believed they had found here and there among the invertebrates points of contact with the vertebrates: some of the worms, especially, seemed to approach the vertebrates in structure, such as the marine arrow-worm (Sagitta). But on closer study the analogies proved untenable. When Darwin gave an impulse to the construction of a real stem-history of the animal kingdom by his reform of the theory of evolution, the solution of this problem was found to be particularly difficult. When I made the first attempt in my General Morphology (1866) to work out the theory and apply it to classification, I found no problem of phylogeny that gave me so much trouble as the linking of the vertebrates with the invertebrates.

But just at this time the true link was discovered, and at a point where it was least expected. Towards the end of 1866 two works of the Russian zoologist, Kowalevsky, who had lived for some time at Naples, and studied the embryology of the lower animals, were issued in the publications of the St. Petersburg Academy. A fortunate accident had directed the attention of this able observer almost simultaneously to the embryology of the lowest vertebrate, the Amphioxus, and that of an invertebrate, the close affinity of which to the Amphioxus had been least suspected, the Ascidia. To the extreme astonishment of all zoologists who were interested in this important question, there turned out to be the utmost resemblance in structure from the commencement of development between these two very different animals--the lowest vertebrate and the mis-shaped, sessile invertebrate. With this undeniable identity of ontogenesis, which can be demonstrated to an astounding extent, we had, in virtue of the biogenetic law, discovered the long-sought genealogical link, and definitely identified the invertebrate group that represents the nearest blood-relatives of the vertebrates. The discovery was confirmed by other zoologists, and there can no longer be any doubt that of all the classes of invertebrates that of the Tunicates is most closely related to the vertebrates, and of the Tunicates the nearest are the Ascidiae. We cannot say that the vertebrates are descended from the Ascidiae--and still less the reverse--but we can say that of all the invertebrates it is the Tunicates, and, within this group, the Ascidiae, that are the nearest blood-relatives of the ancient stem-form of the vertebrates. We must assume as the common ancestral group of both stems an extinct family of the extensive vermalia-stem, the Prochordonia or Prochordata ("primitive chorda-animals").

In order to appreciate fully this remarkable fact, and especially to secure the sound basis we seek for the genealogical tree of the vertebrates, it is necessary to study thoroughly the embryology of both these animals, and compare the individual development of the Amphioxus step by step with that of the Ascidia. We begin with the ontogeny of the Amphioxus.

From the concordant observations of Kowalevsky at Naples and Hatschek at Messina, it follows, firstly, that the ovum-segmentation and gastrulation of the Amphioxus are of the simplest character. They take place in the same way as we find them in many of the lower animals of different invertebrate stems, which we have already described as original or primordial; the development of the Ascidia is of the same type. Sexually mature specimens of the Amphioxus, which are found in great quantities at Messina from April or May onwards, begin as a rule to eject their sexual products in the evening; if you catch them about the middle of a warm night and put them in a glass vessel with seawater, they immediately eject through the mouth their accumulated sexual products, in consequence of the disturbance. The males give out masses of sperm, and the females discharge ova in such quantity that many of them stick to the fibrils about their mouths. Both kinds of cells pass first into the mantle-cavity after the opening of the gonads, proceed through the gill-clefts into the branchial gut, and are discharged from this through the mouth.

The ova are simply round cells. They are only 1/250 of an inch in diameter, and thus are only half the size of the mammal ova, and have no distinctive features. The clear protoplasm of the mature ovum is made so turbid by the numbers of dark granules of food-yelk or deutoplasm scattered in it that it is difficult to follow the process of fecundation and the behaviour of the two nuclei during it (Chapter 1.7). The active elements of the male sperm, the cone-shaped spermatozoa, are similar to those of most other animals (cf. Figure 1.20). Fecundation takes place when these lively ciliated cells of the sperm approach the ovum, and seek to penetrate into the yelk-matter or the cellular substance of the ovum with their head-part--the thicker part of the cell that encloses the nucleus. Only one spermatozoon can bore its way into the yelk at one pole of the ovum-axis; its head or nucleus coalesces with the female nucleus, which remains after the extrusion of the directive bodies from the germinal vesicle. Thus is formed the "stem-nucleus," or the nucleus of the "stem-cell" (cytula, Figure 1.2). This now undergoes total segmentation, dividing into two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two cells, and so on. In this way we get the spherical, mulberry-shaped body, which we call the morula.

The segmentation of the Amphioxus is not entirely regular, as was supposed after the first observations of Kowalevsky (1866). It is not completely equal, but a little unequal. As Hatschek afterwards found (1879), the segmentation-cells only remain equal up to the morula-stage, the spherical body of which consists of thirty-two cells. Then, as always happens in unequal segmentation, the more sluggish vegetal cells are outstripped in the cleavage. At the lower or vegetal pole of the ovum a crown of eight large entodermic cells remains for a long time unchanged, while the other cells divide, owing to the formation of a series of horizontal circles, into an increasing number of crowns of sixteen cells each. Afterwards the segmentation-cells get more or less irregularly displaced, while the segmentation-cavity enlarges in the centre of the morula; in the end the former all lie on the surface of the latter, so that the foetus attains the familiar blastula shape and forms a hollow ball, the wall of which consists of a single stratum of cells (Figure 1.38 A to C). This layer is the blastoderm, the simple epithelium from the cells of which all the tissues of the body proceed.

These important early embryonic processes take place so quickly in the Amphioxus that four or five hours after fecundation, or about midnight, the spherical blastula is completed. A pit-like depression is then formed at the vegetal pole of it, and in consequence of this the hollow sphere doubles on itself (Figure 1.38 D). This pit becomes deeper and deeper (Figure 1.38 E and F); at last the invagination (or doubling) is complete, and the inner or folded part of the blastula-wall lies on the inside of the outer wall. We thus get a hollow hemisphere, the thin wall of which is made up of two layers of cells (Figure 1.38 E). From hemispherical the body soon becomes almost spherical once more, and then oval, the internal cavity enlarging considerably and its mouth growing narrower (Figure 2.213). The form which the Amphioxus-embryo has thus reached is a real "cup-larva" or

The Evolution of Man, V.2 - 6/63

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