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Lophotrochozoan neuroanatomy: An analysis of the brain and nervous system of Lineus viridis (Nemertea) using different staining techniques

Patrick Beckers1, Simone Faller2 and Rudi Loesel2*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, University of Bonn, 53121 Bonn, Germany

2 Unit of Developmental Biology and Morphology of Animals, Institute for Biology II, RWTH Aachen University, 52070 Aachen, Germany

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Frontiers in Zoology 2011, 8:17  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-8-17

Published: 19 July 2011



The now thriving field of neurophylogeny that links the morphology of the nervous system to early evolutionary events relies heavily on detailed descriptions of the neuronal architecture of taxa under scrutiny. While recent accounts on the nervous system of a number of animal clades such as arthropods, annelids, and molluscs are abundant, in depth studies of the neuroanatomy of nemerteans are still wanting. In this study, we used different staining techniques and confocal laser scanning microscopy to reveal the architecture of the nervous system of Lineus viridis with high anatomical resolution.


In L. viridis, the peripheral nervous system comprises four distinct but interconnected nerve plexus. The central nervous system consists of a pair of medullary cords and a brain. The brain surrounds the proboscis and is subdivided into four voluminous lobes and a ring of commissural tracts. The brain is well developed and contains thousands of neurons. It does not reveal compartmentalized neuropils found in other animal groups with elaborate cerebral ganglia.


The detailed analysis of the nemertean nervous system presented in this study does not support any hypothesis on the phylogenetic position of Nemertea within Lophotrochozoa. Neuroanatomical characters that are described here are either common in other lophotrochozoan taxa or are seemingly restricted to nemerteans. Since detailed descriptions of the nervous system of adults in other nemertean species have not been available so far, this study may serve as a basis for future studies that might add data to the unsettled question of the nemertean ground pattern and the position of this taxon within the phylogenetic tree.