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Cell Tissue Res. 1989 Nov;258(2):277-87.

Fine structure of a sensory organ in the arista of Drosophila melanogaster and some other dipterans.

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  • 1Zoologisches Institut Universit├Ąt, Freiburg, Switzerland.


The arista, a characteristic appendage of dipteran antennae, consists of 2 short segments at the base and a long distal shaft. A small sensory ganglion, from which arises the aristal nerve, is located proximally in the shaft. The fine structure of the aristal sensory organ was studied in detail in the fruitfly (Drosophila) and for comparison in the housefly (Musca) and the blowfly (Calliphora). In Drosophila, the aristal sense organ consists of 3 identical sensilla that terminate in the hemolymph space of the aristal shaft, and not in an external cuticular apparatus. Each sensillum comprises 2 bipolar neurons and 2 sheath cells; a third sheath cell envelops the somata of all six neurons of the ganglion. The neurons have long slender dendrites with the usual subdivision into an inner and an outer segment. One of the outer segments is highly lamellated and bears small particles (BOSS-structures) on the outside of its cell membrane; the other outer segment is unbranched and has a small diameter. The fine structure of the first dendrite is strongly reminiscent of thermoreceptors known from the antennae of other insects. These thermoreceptors are often coupled with hygroreceptors; however, we can only speculate whether the second dendrite of the aristal organ also has this function. Our present results argue against mechanoreceptive functions, as formerly postulated. The aristal sense organs in Musca and Calliphora are similar to those in Drosophila, but contain more sensilla (12 in Musca, 18 in Calliphora.

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