Structure, formation, mechanical properties, and disposal of the embryo attachment system of an estuarine crab, Sesarma haematocheir

M. Saigusa, M. Terajima, M. Yamamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


In most decapod crustaceans, fertilized eggs extruded from the gonopore attach to ovigerous hairs within the incubation chamber of the female. The attachment is effected by an "embryo attachment system". The three continuous components of this system are the egg envelope, the funiculus, and the investment coat, which wraps around an ovigerous hair. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed that the embryo of Sesarma haematocheir is enfolded by three distinct envelopes (E1, E2, and E3), whereas the embryo attachment system is composed of only the outermost, single envelope (E1) with two sublayers (E1a and E1b). This envelope (E1) originates from the outer layer of the vitelline membrane (envelope of the ovum) with two sublayers (E1a′ and E1b′). The sequence and timing of events in the formation of the embryo attachment system was determined on the basis of observations of female behavior, ultrastructure, and mechanical properties of the membranes. The egg envelope (E1a′ + E1b′) is not adhesive immediately after extrusion from the gonopore; but 5 min after egg-laying, it becomes adhesive - a change associated with "fusion" of the two sublayers (E1) - and attaches the eggs to the ovigerous hairs from 5 to 30 min after egg-laying. The layer E1a′ always binds to an ovigerous hair at specific, electron-dense attachment sites that are distributed longitudinally on the surface of each hair. Plasticity of the egg envelope changes, and the female kneads her eggs by the movement of ovigerous setae; this movement forms the investment coat on the ovigerous hair (10-40 min after egg-laying). Thirty minutes after egg-laying, the egg envelope again divides into two sublayers (E1a and E1b), and the adhesiveness rapidly decreases. The plasticity of the envelope remains, and the funiculus is formed, accompanied by kneading of the eggs (40-90 min after egg-laying). The embryos hatch one month after incubation, and the attachment systems all slip off their ovigerous hairs by the actions of the ovigerous-hair slipping substance (OHSS). This substance appears to act specifically at the attachment sites on the hair, lysing the bond with layer E1a, and thereby disposing of the embryonic attachment system and preparing the hairs for the next clutch of embryos.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-306
Number of pages18
JournalBiological Bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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