Investigations of amphipod embryonic development have a long tradition. However, many aspects of amphipod embryology are still controversial. These concern, among others, the nature of the cleavage, the origin of the germ disc, and the mode of gastrulation. On the other hand, amphipods show the same characteristic type of invariant cell division pattern in the germ band as other malacostracans. Since amphipods seem to undergo a stereotyped pattern of early cleavage they are highly interesting for our understanding of the evolution of arthropod development. In this paper, we describe the cleavage pattern of the amphipod crustacean Orchestia cavimana from the zygote to gastrulation and the formation of the germ disc using direct observation, scanning electron microscopy, histology, video recording, and lineage tracing with a vital dye. The early development follows the mode of a total, radial, unequal cleavage with a determinate stereotyped pattern. A small transient blastocoel is formed. The 8-cell stage is characterised by 4 micromeres and 4 macromeres. One quadrant is smaller than the others. There are two kinds of eggs that show a mirror handed image. The 16-cell stage is the last regular stage after which the blastomeres divide highly asynchronously. The germ disc is formed by the descendants of the macromeres and some micromere derivatives. The other micromeres constitute the extra-embryonic region. Migration of macromere descendants is involved in germ disc formation accompanied by the extrusion of the yolk. During this process some vitellophages are formed. The gastrulation sensu stricto is initiated by the micromere derivatives of the smallest quadrant at the anterior of the forming germ disc. A true blastopore occurs which involves an invagination and the immigration of cells. Our data help to correct erroneous interpretations of former students of amphipod development. We can show that many chaiacters of amphipod embryonic development are apomorphic supporting amphipod monophyly. With the present investigation we contribute to a complete understanding of the embryonic cell lineage of amphipods from the egg to segment formation and organogenesis.

, , , ,
Contributions to Zoology

Released under the CC-BY 4.0 ("Attribution") License

Naturalis journals & series

Scholtz, G., & Wolff, C. (2002). Cleavage, gastrulation, and germ disc formation of the amphipod Orchestia cavimana (Crustacea, Malacostraca, Peracarida). Contributions to Zoology, 71(1/3), 9–28.