Patterns of electrical activity in comb plates of feeding Pleurobrachia (Ctenophora). Academic Article uri icon


  • The electromotor behaviour of ciliary comb plates was studied during prey-stimulated and electrically stimulated feeding by intact Pleurobrachia pileus (Müller). Comb plate electrical activity was recorded by extracellular electrodes attached directly to the cilia; comb plate motility was recorded by high-speed video microscopy. Comb plate electrical activity fell into two distinct classes, identified by waveform and amplitude: (i) excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPS) in the comb plate (polster) cells and (ii) regenerative potentials in the cilia, as described previously (Moss & Tamm 1987). Slow phasic bursts of regenerative potentials (reversal volleys) were observed in comb plates of rows undergoing reversed beating during capture of prey or by rhythmic electrical stimulation of the tentacles. All plates of a given comb row exhibited virtually identical electrical activity. Timing and development of electrical activity in comb plates of the subtentacular (ST) rows were nearly identical even though separated by several centimetres; onset of the reversal volleys of plates of subsagittal (ss) rows were delayed on average by about 0.5 s relative to the ST rows, although individual EPSPS displayed very similar timing. Microsurgery, combined with extracellular recording from comb plates and the tentacle and associated basal structures, revealed the presence of an integrative center in the tentacular bulb. This communicates with the comb plates by means of a diffuse pathway, presumably the nerve net, which itself is maximally sensitive to rhythmic input. The pathway underlying the reversal volley may innervate only the stimulated hemisphere. In addition to the rhythmic pathway, a through-conducting pathway runs from distal regions of the tentacle to the comb plate cells. Yet another excitatory pathway, possibly distinct from the tentacular through-conducting pathway, may mediate certain cases of global postsynaptic activity. The pathway that controls mouth movements during feeding is entirely independent of any comb plate pathway.

publication date

  • January 29, 1993