2020-11-30Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1002/jmor.21303
A postlarval instar of Phoxichilidium femoratum (Pycnogonida, Phoxichilidiidae) with an exceptional malformation
Individuals of the marine chelicerate lineage Pycnogonida (sea spiders) show considerable regenerative capabilities after appendage injury or loss. In their natural habitats, especially the long legs of sea spiders are commonly lost and regenerated, as is evidenced by the frequent encounter of specimens with missing or miniature legs. In contrast to this, the collection of individuals with abnormally developed appendages or trunk regions is comparably rare. Here, we studied a remarkable malformation in a postlarval instar of the species Phoxichilidium femoratum (Rathke, 1799) and describe the external morphology and internal organization of the specimen using a combination of fluorescent histochemistry and scanning electron microscopy. The individual completely lacks the last trunk segment with leg pair 4 and the normally penultimate trunk segment bears only a single aberrant appendage resembling an extension of the anteroposterior body axis. Externally, the proximal units of the articulated appendage are unpaired, but further distally a bifurcation into two equally developed leg‐like branches is found. Three‐dimensional reconstruction of the musculature reveals components of two regular leg muscle sets in several of the proximal articles. This confirms interpretation of the entire appendage as a malformed leg and reveals an externally hidden paired organization along its entire proximodistal axis. To explain the origin of this unique malformation, early pioneering studies on the regenerative potential of pycnogonids are evaluated and (a) an injury‐induced partial fusion of the developing limb buds of leg pair 3, as well as (b) irregular leg regeneration following near complete loss of trunk segments 3 and 4 are discussed. Which of the two hypotheses is more realistic remains to be tested by dedicated experimental approaches. These will have to rely on pycnogonid species with established laboratory husbandry in order to overcome the limitations of the few short‐term regeneration studies performed to date.