Indexed on: 24 Apr '08Published on: 24 Apr '08Published in: Journal of Morphology
Cocoons secreted by the aquatic leech Theromyzon tessulatum comprise a tubular, membranous ovoid, sealed at each end by a glue-like substance, called an operculum. Scanning electron microscopy showed surface features of the T. tessulatum cocoon that included a circuitous bulge, cups that conformed to the shape of embryos, relief folds that radiated from opercula, and asymmetric distributions of protuberances on the upper aspect of the cocoon surface. The structural integrity of the T. tessulatum cocoon was assessed after exposure to a variety of denaturing conditions (e.g., extreme heat, detergents, acids). Although both the fibrous cocoon membrane and opercula were strikingly resilient, the membrane/operculum boundary appeared to be the weakest structural component of the cocoon, consistent with its functional role as an escape hatch for juvenile leeches. The operculum itself was more sensitive to denaturation than the cocoon membrane, and thus was probably the source of a major protein component isolated from the T. tessulatum cocoon (i.e., Tcp; Theromyzon cocoon protein).