(After Allman.) sensory, contractile and pro tective in function.
(2) Sensory cells, which may be fairly numerous in places, especially on the tentacles, but which occur always scattered and isolated, never aggregated to form sense-organs as in the medusa.
When the nematocyst is completely developed, the cnidoblast passes outwards so as to occupy a superficial position in the ectoderm, and a delicate protoplasmic process of sensory nature, termed the cnidocil (cn) projects from the cnidoblast like a fine hair or cilium.
Many points in the development and mechanism of the nematocyst are disputed, but it is tolerably certain (I) that the cnidocil is of sensory nature, and that stimulation, by contact with prey or in other ways, causes a reflex discharge of the nematocyst; (2) that the discharge is an explosive change whereby the in-turned thread is suddenly everted and turned inside out, being thus shot through the opening in the outer wall of the capsule, and forced violently into the tissues of the prey, or, it may be, of an enemy; (3) that the thread inflicts not merely a mechanical wound, but instils an irritant poison, numbing and paralysing in its action.
A further stage in evolution is that the muscle-cells lose their connexion with the epithelium and come to lie entirely beneath it, forming a sub-epithelial contractile layer, developed chiefly in the tentacles of the polyp. The of the evolution of the ganglioncells is probably similar; an epithelial cell develops processes of nervous nature from the base, which come into connexion with the bases of the sensory cells, with the muscular cells, and with the similar processes of other nerve-cells; next the nerve-cell loses its connexion with the outer epithelium and becomes a sub-epithelial ganglion-cell which is closely connected with the muscular layer, conveying stimuli from the sensory cells to the contractile elements.