Background. The overall anatomy of the genus Syllis (Annelida: Syllidae) has been largely studied; however, an integrative approach considering different anatomical techniques has never been considered. Here, we use micro-computed X-ray tomography (micro-CT) to examine the internal anatomy of Syllis gracilis Grube, 1840, along with other widely available techniques.
Methods. We studied the anatomy of the marine annelid S. gracilis through an integrative approach, including micro-CT along with stereo and light compound microscopy (STM, LCM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) and histological sectioning (HIS). In this manner, we evaluated the applicability of micro-CT for the examination of annelid anatomy by testing whether the images obtained make it possible to visualize the main body structures, in comparison with other current techniques, of the various elements of its internal anatomy.
Results. Overall external and internal body elements are clearly shown by the integrative use of all techniques, thus overcoming the limitations of each when studied separately.Any given method shows disparate results, depending on the body part considered. For instance, micro-CT provided good images of the external anatomy, including relevant characters such as the shape, length and number of articles of dorsal parapodial cirri. However, it is especially useful for the examination of internal anatomy, thus allowing for 3D visualization of the natural spatial arrangement of the different organs. The features best visualized are those of higher tissue density (i.e., body musculature, anterior parts of the digestive tract), particularly in 3D images of unstained specimens, whereas less electrodense tissues (i.e., the peritoneal lining of septa and nervous system) are less clearly visualized. The use of iodine stain with micro-CT has shown advantages against non-staining for the adequate observation of delicate elements of low density, such as the segmental organs, the connective between the ganglia, the ventral nerve cord and segmental nerves.
Discussion. Main external anatomical elements of S. gracilis are well shown with micro-CT, but images show lesser optical resolution and contrast when compared to micrographs provided by SEM and CLSM, especially for fine structural features of chaetae. Comparison of micro-CT and HIS images revealed the utility and reliability of the former to show the presence, shape and spatial disposition of most internal body organs; the resolution of micro-CT images at a cellular level is, however, much lower than that of HIS, which makes both techniques complementary.||es_ES