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Malpighian tubule

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noun, plural: Malpighian tubules

A tubule extending from the interior (alimentary canal) to the exterior of many arthropods, and is involved in osmoregulation by excreting water and wastes in the form of solid nitrogenous compounds


Malpighian tubules are small slender tubes located posteriorly in the alimentary canals of arthropods, such as insects, myriapods, arachnids, and tardigrades. The tubules are extensions of the alimentary canal to the exterior. Each tubule is lined with a single layer of cells and with microvilli that propel the contents along the tubules. Most of them are highly convoluted and are bathed in hemolymph. These tubes are involved in osmoregulation; they absorb solutes, water, and wastes from the hemolymph and release wastes as solid nitrogenous compounds to the outside of the organism. Most of the Malpighian tubule systems have accessory musculature that help mix the contents of the tubules. In certain insects, the Malpighian tubules are modified. For instance, the Malpighian tubules of the larvae of the glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, are capable of emitting a blue-green light that attract prey.1

The name is derived from the anatomist Marcello Malpighi who is regarded as the Father of microscopical anatomy, histology, physiology andembryology.

See also:

1 Green, L.B.S. (1979) The fine structure of the light organ of the New Zealand glow-wormArachnocampa luminosa (Diptera: Mycetophilidae).Tissue and Cell 11: 457–465.