The Role of the Coelomic Fluid in the Movements of Earthworms

G. E. Newell
1950 Journal of Experimental Biology  
A short review is given of the coelom and of its morphological relations in the earthworm. The arrangement of the intrinsic muscles in a typical septum is described. Four main sets of muscles are recognized: viz. radial muscles, circular muscles, oblique muscles, and the sphincter around the ventral foramen. It is suggested that the function of the radial, circular and possibly of the oblique muscles is to control bulging of the septa, and so serve to localize differences in pressure in the
more » ... omic fluid. Normally, in active worms, the sphincter of the ventral foramen is contracted and forms an effective barrier to the passage of fluid from one coelomic compartment to the next. This was verified experimentally and by X-ray photography. A series of measurements of the pressure in the coelomic fluid in different regions of active worms was recorded by means of a capillary manometer and by the use of a spoon-gauge apparatus. Manometric measurements showed the average pressure in the anterior third of the body to be 16.0 cm. water and in the tail region to be 8.0 cm. water. The corresponding figures obtained with a spoon gauge were 13.5 and 8.5 cm. water. The pressure in narcotized worms is zero. These results are discussed, and it is pointed out that the manometer readings suffer from the disadvantage of failing to show the rapid fluctuations in pressure which occur during wriggling movements of the worms. It is calculated from these pressure readings that a worm can exert a forward thrust equivalent to forces of between 1.5 and 8.0 g. These figures agree well with those obtained by Gray & Lissman by the use of a special torsion balance. The burrowing movements of earthworms are briefly described. It is shown that the sphincters of the dorsal pores and of the nephridiopores do not normally allow of the escape of coelomic fluid, and will withstand a pressure well outside the normal range.
doi:10.1242/jeb.27.1.110 fatcat:klv3wtzztbe5ffv5c3yq5n74ze