A large nematocyst, with everted thread, is seen in the right-hand ectodermal cell.
The cnidoblasts are the mother-cells of the nematocysts, each cell producing one nematocyst in its interior.
The entire nematocyst is enclosed in the cnidoblast which formed it.
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.
2.-I, Portion of epithelium from the tentacle of an Actinian, showing three supporting cells and one sense cell (sc); 2, a cnidoblast with enclosed nematocyst from the same specimen; 3 and 4, two forms of gland cell from the stomodaeum; 5a, 5b, epithelio-muscular cells from the tentacle in different states of contraction; 5c, an epithelio-muscular cell from the endoderm, containing a symbiotic zooxanthella; 6, a ganglion cell from the ectoderm of the peristome.