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Almost all ascidian larvae bear three mucus secreting and sensory organs, the adhesive papillae, at the anterior end of the trunk, which play an important role during the settlement phase. The morphology and the cellular composition of these organs varies greatly in the different species. The larvae of the Clavelina genus bear simple bulbous papillae, which are considered to have only a secretory function. We analysed the adhesive papillae of two species belonging to this genus, C. lepadiformis and C. phlegraea, by histological sections and by immunolocalisation of b-tubulin and serotonin, in order to better clarify the cellular composition of these organs.We demonstrated that they contain at least two types of neurons: central neurons, bearing microvilli, and peripheral ciliated neurons. Peripheral neurons of C. lepadiformis contain serotonin. We suggest that these two neurons play different roles during settlement: the central ones may be chemo- or mechanoreceptors that sense the substratum, and the peripheral ones may be involved in the mechanism that triggers metamorphosis.
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