Development of the supporting cells and structures derived from them in the inner ear of the grass frog, Rana temporaria (Amphibia, Anura)
The vestibular apparatus of tadpoles (Rana temporaria) exposed to simulated weightlessness was examined by electron microscopy. Extended exposure to simulated weightlessness is followed by significant alterations in the sensory epithelia and also in the otolith membrane. Large vacuoles, filled with necrobiotic mitochondria and fragments of endoplasmic reticulum, were concentrated in the region where an otolith membrane covers the hair cells but were mostly absent in zones of the epithelia with undifferentiated cells. The number of otoconia in the otolith membrane was diminished. The results were compared with data from space flight experiments and some concordance was noted. The possible connection between some unusual behavior of the tadpoles after weightlessness simulation and the structural alterations in the gravitational sensors was discussed.