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J Morphol. 2008 Mar;269(3):259-71.

Characteristics and fate of the spermatozoa of Inachus phalangium (Decapoda, Majidae): description of novel sperm structures and evidence for an additional mechanism of sperm competition in Brachyura.

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Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e Genetica Leo Pardi, University of Florence, 50125 Florence, Italy.


Various aspects of the reproductive anatomy of the spider crab Inachus phalangium are investigated utilizing light and electron microscopy. Spermatozoal ultrastructure reveals the presence of a glycocalyx in the peripheral region of the periopercular rim, never recorded before in crustacean sperm cells. Sperm cell morphological traits such as semi-lunar acrosome shape, centrally perforate and flat operculum, and absence of a thickened ring, are shared only with Macropodia longirostris, confirming a close phylogenetic relationship of these species and their separation from the other members of the family Majidae. Spermatozoa are transferred to females inside spermatophores of different sizes, but during ejaculate transfer, larger spermatophores might be ruptured by tooth-like structures present on the ejaculatory canal of the male first gonopod, releasing free sperm cells. Such a mechanism could represent the first evidence of a second form of sperm competition in conflict with sperm displacement, the only mechanism of sperm competition known among Brachyura, enabling paternity for both dominant and smaller, non-dominant, males. In addition, we propose several hypotheses concerning the remote and proximal causes of the existence of large seminal receptacles in females of I. phalangium. Among these, genetically diverse progeny, reduction of sexual harassment and phylogenetic retention seem the most plausible, while acquisition of nutrients from seminal fluids, demonstrated in other arthropods, and suggested by previous studies, could be discarded on the basis of the presented data.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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