The morphology of the gills of the freshwater African crab Potamon niloticus (Crustacea: Brachyura: Potamonidae): A scanning and transmission electron microscopic study
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The gills of the African freshwater crab Potamon niloticus-Ortmann have been investigated by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Potamon has seven pairs of phyllobranchiate gills contained in the branchial chambers. From the central axis of the gills arise bilaterally situated thin flaps, the lamellae. The afferent branchial vessel (the epibranchial vessel) is located on the dorsal aspect of the gill arch and the efferent vessel (the hypobrancial vessel) on the ventral side. Between these two blood vessels, the blood percolates through the lamellar vascular channels where it is oxygenated. The lamellae consist of an epithelial cell layer covered by a thin cuticle which consists of tightly fused but distinct layers. The epithelial cells approach each other at regular intervals and fuse in the middle of the lamellar sinus delineating the vascular channels. Apical profuse membranous infoldings and numerous mitochondria characterize the epithelial cells, features typical of cells involved in active transport of macro- and micromolecules. In Potamon, however, there were no distinct gas exchange and osmoregulatory regions of the gills. On average, the cuticle was 0.78 μm thick while the epithelial cell was 6 μm. Cells that were morphologically similar to the renal glomerular podocytes of the vertebrates were observed in the efferent gill vessel of Potamon. These cells have been said to be phagocytic and may play an important defensive role in the crustaceans. Although basically the morphology of the gills of Potamon is similar to that of the other decapods, fine structural differences were evident as would be intuitively expected in a group of animals that has undergone such remarkable adaptive radiation.