The architecture and fine structure of gill filaments in the brown mussel, Perna perna

  • M.A. Gregory
  • R.C. George
  • T.P. McClurg


For many years, bivalve molluscs have played a useful role in determining the impact of pollution on marine organisms. In the northern hemisphere, ecologists from countries subscribing to the International Mussel Watch have used toxin-mediated changes in the organs of Mytilus edulis, especially in the morphology of gill filaments, to indicate the biotoxicity of marine effluent. M. edulis is not indigenous to South African waters. For us to adopt a similar approach on the South African east coast, it is necessary to catalogue both the normal appearance and toxin-mediated changes in our local brown mussel Perna perna. In this study, the gill filaments from five healthy, adult brown mussels were studied by light and transmission electron microscopy. Special attention was paid to filament architecture, ennervation of filaments, number and type of cells populating filament epithelia and variations in epithelial cell morphology and cilia ultrastructure. Filament shape was maintained by thickened chi-tln and strategically placed smooth myocytes. The epithelium was populated with eight morphologically distinctive non-secretory, mucus secreting or sensory cell types in various stages of differentiation. Unmyelinated nerves were situated beneath six cell types. Significant differences in filament architecture and epithelial cell morphology were found between M. edulis and P. perna. It is hoped that this comprehensive description of normal P. perna gill filaments will provide a morphological baseline for local pollution impact studies.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020