The two equilibrium receptor organs (statocysts) of Nautilus are ovoid sacks, half-filled with numerous small, free-moving statoconia and half with endolymph. The inner surface of each statocyst is lined with 130 000 to 150 000 primary sensory hair cells. The hair cells are of two morphological types. Type A hair cells carry 10 to 15 kinocilia arranged in a single ciliary row; they are present in the ventral half of the statocyst. Type B hair cells carry 8 to 10 irregularly arranged kinocilia; they are present in the dorsal half of the statocyst. Both type of hair cells are morphologically polarized. To test whether these features allow the Nautilus statocyst to sense angular accelerations, behavioural experiments were performed to measure statocyst-dependent funnel movements during sinusoidal oscillations of restrained Nautilus around a vertical body axis. Such dynamic rotatory stimulation caused horizontal phase-locked movements of the funnel. The funnel movements were either in the same direction (compensatory funnel response), or in the opposite direction (funnel follow response) to that of the applied rotation. Compensatory funnel movements were also seen during optokinetic stimulation (with a black and white stripe pattern) and during stimulations in which optokinetic and statocyst stimulations were combined.
These morphological and behavioural findings show that the statocysts of Nautilus, in addition to their function as gravity receptor organs, are able to detect rotatory movements (angular accelerations) without the specialized receptor systems (crista/cupula systems) that are found in the statocysts of coleoid cephalopods. The findings further indicate that both statocyst and visual inputs control compensatory funnel movements.
↵This paper is dedicated to Professor John Z. Young, FRS, FBA, on the occasion of his 90th birthday