A unique mushroom body substructure common to basal cockroaches and to termites

Sarah M. Farris, Nicholas J. Strausfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The mushroom bodies of the cockroach Periplaneta americana are made up of intrinsic neurons (class I and class II Kenyon cells) with dendrites in a dorsal calyx and axons that bifurcate into medial and vertical lobes. Here, we describe a substructure of the cockroach mushroom bodies composed of a previously unrecognized class of Kenyon cells with distinct morphologies. The embryonically produced class III Kenyon cells form a separate accessory calyx below the calyx proper. The medial branches of class III Kenyon cell axons form the previously described "γ bulb," whereas the vertical branches leave the vertical lobe to form a toroidal "lobelet" around the posterior surface. Taking advantage of the morphologically and immunochemically distinct nature of the lobelet, we have attempted to determine the distribution of this unique structure in other insects of the taxon Dictyoptera (cockroaches, mantises, and termites). Our data indicate that the lobelet is present only in basal cockroaches and in termites, supporting existing theories of a close phylogenetic relationship between these groups. Higher termites possess a duplicated lobe structure due to immense elaboration of the processes of class III Kenyon cells. The degree of complexity in the mushroom body lobes of termites agrees with current taxonomic arrangements of the Isoptera based on non-neural morphological and DNA sequence analyses. It thus appears that the evolution of the Dictyoptera has been accompanied by increasing complexity of the mushroom bodies, achieved in part through the further specialization and elaboration of a subset of Kenyon cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-320
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 17 2003


  • Brain complexity
  • Dictyoptera
  • Protein kinase A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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