Structure of the Adhesive Surface of the Digital Tentacles of Nautilus Pompilius Academic Article uri icon


  • The cirri of the digital tentacles of Nautilus pompilius are covered by annular ridges, more pronounced on the oral (adhesive) than the aboral side. On the oral side the epithelium is thicker on the proximal and outer surfaces of the ridges than on their distal surfaces. Prominent electron-dense granules occur in the cells of the thick epithelium, but are absent from the thin epithelium and the epithelium of the aboral surface. These granules contain mucopolysaccharide and may be responsible for adhesion.The digital tentacles of Nautilus are used for attachment to, for example, prey, the substratum, or the partner's shell during mating. Their general structure and histology have been described by Owen (1832), Willey (1898), Barber & Wright (1969), Fukuda (1987) and Kier (1987). The mechanism of adhesion is still uncertain. Barber & Wright (1969) report epithelial cells of two types: pigmented cells containing pigment granules 0–5–1 µm in diameter, interspersed with a small number of mucus-producing cells which may help with the adhesive process.

publication date

  • August 1995