Nemertea - Description - Nervous System and Senses

Nervous System and Senses

The central nervous system consists of a brain and paired ventral nerve cords that connect to the brain and run along the length of the body. The brain is a ring of four ganglia, masses of nerve cells, positioned round the rhynchocoel near its front end – while the brains of most protostome invertebrates encircle the foregut. Most nemertean species have just one pair of nerve cords, many species have additional paired cords, and some species also have a dorsal cord. In some species the cords lie within the skin, but in most they are deeper, inside the muscle layers. The central nervous system is often red or pink because it contains hemoglobin. This stores oxygen for peak activity or when the animal experiences anoxia, for example while burrowing in oxygen-free sediments.

Some species have paired cerebral organs, sacs whose only openings are to the outside. Others species have unpaired evertible organs on the front of their heads. Some have slits along the side of the head or grooves obliquely across the head, and these may be associated with paired cerebral organs. All of these are thought to be chemoreceptors, and the cerebral organs may also aiding osmoregulation. Small pits in the epidermis appear to be sensors. On their head some species have a number of pigment-cup ocelli, which can detect light but not form an image. Most nemerteans have two to six ocelli, although some have hundreds. A few tiny species that live between grains of sand have statocysts, which sense balance.

Paranemertes peregrina, which feeds on polychaetes, can follow the prey's trails of mucus, and find its burrow by backtracking along its own trail of mucus.

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