New paper in Frontiers in Zoology


The antennal scape organ of Scutigera coleoptrata (Myriapoda) and a new type of arthropod tip-pore sensilla integrating scolopidial components.

Sombke A, Rosenberg J, Hilken G, Müller CHG. 2021.  
Frontiers in Zoology 18: 57. Open Access. Link. Published online 4 November 2021


Centipedes are terrestrial, predatory arthropods with specialized sensory organs. However, many aspects of their sensory biology are still unknown. This also concerns hygroreception, which is especially important for centipedes, as their epicuticle is thin and they lose water rapidly at low humidity. Thus, the detection of humid places is vital but to date no definite hygroreceptor was found in centipedes. House centipedes (Scutigeromorpha) possess a peculiar opening at the base of their antenna, termed ‘scape organ’, that houses up to 15 cone-shaped sensilla in a cavity. Lacking wall and tip-pores, these socket-less sensilla may be hypothesized to function as hygroreceptors similar to those found in hexapods.

The cone-shaped sensilla in the scape organ as well as nearby peg-shaped sensilla are composed of three biciliated receptor cells and three sheath cells. A tip-pore is present but plugged by a highly electron-dense secretion, which also overlays the entire inner surface of the cavity. Several solitary recto-canal epidermal glands produce the secretion. Receptor cell type 1 (two cells in cone-shaped sensilla, one cell in peg-shaped sensilla) possesses two long dendritic outer segments that project to the terminal pore. Receptor cell type 2 (one cell in both sensilla) possesses two shorter dendritic outer segments connected to the first (proximal) sheath cell that establishes a scolopale-like structure, documented for the first time in detail in a myriapod sensillum.

The nearly identical configuration of receptor cells 1 with their long dendritic outer segments in both sensilla is similar to hexapod hygroreceptors. In Scutigera coleoptrata, however, the mechanism of stimulus transduction is different. Water vapor may lead to swelling and subsequent elongation of the plug pin that enters the terminal pore, thus causing stimulation of the elongated dendritic outer segments. The interconnection of receptor cell 2 with short outer dendritic segments to a scolopale-like structure potentially suits both sensilla for vibration or strain detection. Thus, both sensilla located at the antennal base of scutigeromorph centipedes fulfill a dual function.