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Front Zool. 2014 Jun 8;11:43. doi: 10.1186/1742-9994-11-43. eCollection 2014.

A new kind of auxiliary heart in insects: functional morphology and neuronal control of the accessory pulsatile organs of the cricket ovipositor.

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Department of Neurobiology, JFB-Institute for Zoology, University of Göttingen, Berliner Straße 28, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.
Department of Integrative Zoology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria.



In insects, the pumping of the dorsal heart causes circulation of hemolymph throughout the central body cavity, but not within the interior of long body appendages. Hemolymph exchange in these dead-end structures is accomplished by special flow-guiding structures and/or autonomous pulsatile organs ("auxiliary hearts"). In this paper accessory pulsatile organs for an insect ovipositor are described for the first time. We studied these organs in females of the cricket Acheta domesticus by analyzing their functional morphology, neuroanatomy and physiological control.


The lumen of the four long ovipositor valves is subdivided by longitudinal septa of connective tissue into efferent and afferent hemolymph sinuses which are confluent distally. The countercurrent flow in these sinuses is effected by pulsatile organs which are located at the bases of the ovipositor valves. Each of the four organs consists of a pumping chamber which is compressed by rhythmically contracting muscles. The morphology of the paired organs is laterally mirrored, and there are differences in some details between the dorsal and ventral organs. The compression of the pumping chambers of each valve pair occurs with a left-right alternating rhythm with a frequency of 0.2 to 0.5 Hz and is synchronized between the dorsal and ventral organs. The more anteriorly located genital chamber shows rhythmical lateral movements simultaneous to those of the ovipositor pulsatile organs and probably supports the hemolymph exchange in the abdominal apex region. The left-right alternating rhythm is produced by a central pattern generator located in the terminal ganglion. It requires no sensory feedback for its output since it persists in the completely isolated ganglion. Rhythm-modulating and rhythm-resetting interneurons are identified in the terminal ganglion.


The circulatory organs of the cricket ovipositor have a unique functional morphology. The pumping apparatus at the base of each ovipositor valve operates like a bellow. It forces hemolymph via sinuses delimited by thin septa of connective tissue in a countercurrent flow through the valve lumen. The pumping activity is based on neurogenic control by a central pattern generator in the terminal ganglion.


Abdomen; Central pattern generator; Circulation; Evolutionary novelty; Gryllidae; Hemolymph; Neuroanatomy; Neurogenic; Orthoptera; Terminal ganglion

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