1. Chambers (1938) described an experiment in which he cut open one blasto-mere of a cleaving sea-urchin egg at the dumb-bell stage in isotonic KCl. The other blastomere contracted like a ‘deflating balloon’, and this has been taken by other workers as evidence of a positive membrane tension in the cleaving egg. This experiment has been repeated with other sea urchins in various media. It is concluded that this effect only takes place in one species of sea urchin, in an abnormal medium, and after it has suffered irreparable damage. It is not, therefore, legitimate to suppose that there is normally a positive membrane tension in a cleaving egg. It is found that eggs will continue to cleave with one blastomere in an irregular shape which indicates that, on the contrary, there is no membrane tension and no internal pressure. These are the conditions demanded by the ‘expanding membrane’ theory of cleavage.
2. It is found that the furrow of a cleaving egg will pass through a needle placed in its path. This result argues against a simple contracting ring in the furrow region being responsible for cleavage.
3. Chambers (1938) found that an egg will continue to cleave when its asters have been destroyed by stirring. This result has been confirmed by a similar experiment on a different species of sea urchin. This is crucial evidence against an astral mechanism of cleavage.
4. The effects of compressing cleaving eggs have been studied. It is found that compressed eggs continue to cleave unless the degree of flattening is considerable; that cleavage is delayed before it is finally stopped; and that eggs in Ca-free sea water are more susceptible to compression than eggs in ordinary sea water. These results are consistent with the ‘expanding membrane’ theory.
Now at Department of Zoology, University of Edinburgh.