Evisceration in the holothurian Eupentacta quinquesemita (Selenka) results from a rapid softening of autotomy structures comprised of connective tissue. The mechanical properties of two autotomy tissues, the introvert and the retractor muscle tendon, were tested to investigate their function in the non-evisceration state and their behaviour during autotomy. The results show that these structures do not have a pre-existing mechanical weakness to account for their rapid failure during evisceration. The autotomy response was mimicked in vitro by increasing K+ concentration. The introvert exhibited viscous behaviour and the absence of Ca2+ and Mg2+ decreased introvert viscosity, whereas excess Ca2+, and low and high pH, increased viscosity. These agents may influence the mechanical properties of the autotomy structures by directly affecting connective tissue ionic interactions and may induce proteoglycan conformational changes. K+ may also exert an indirect effect through responses of cells controlling connective tissue tensility. The most likely mechanism of autotomy is through an alteration of connective tissue ionic interactions.

This content is only available via PDF.