The general fine structure of the atrial musculature of the turtle heart is described, including; the nature of the sarcolemma; the cross-banded structure of the myofibrils; the character of the sarcoplasm, and the form and disposition of its organelles. An abundant granular component of the sarcoplasm in this species is tentatively identified as a particulate form of glycogen.
The myocardium is composed of individual cells joined end to end at primitive intercalated discs, and side to side at sites of cohesion that resemble the desmosomes of epithelia. Transitional forms are found between desmosomes and intercalated discs. Both consist of a thickened area of the cell membrane with an accumulation of dense material in the subjacent cytoplasm. This dense amorphous component is often continuous with the Z substance of the myofibrils and may be of the same composition. The observations reported reemphasize the basic similarity between desmosomes and terminal bars of epithelia and intercalated discs of cardiac muscle.
Numerous unmyelinated nerves are found beneath the endocardium. Some of these occupy recesses in the surface of Schwann cells; others are naked axons. No specialized nerve endings are found. Axons passing near the sarcolemma contain synaptic vesicles, and it is believed that this degree of proximity is sufficient to constitute a functioning myoneural junction.