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Annu Rev Entomol. 2016;61:1-23. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-010715-023555.

Structure and Evolution of Insect Sperm: New Interpretations in the Age of Phylogenomics.

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Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, Università di Siena, I-53100 Siena, Italy; email: ,
Institut für Spezielle Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie mit Phyletischem Museum, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, D-07743 Jena, Germany; email:


This comprehensive review of the structure of sperm in all orders of insects evaluates phylogenetic implications, with the background of a phylogeny based on transcriptomes. Sperm characters strongly support several major branches of the phylogeny of insects-for instance, Cercophora, Dicondylia, and Psocodea-and also different infraordinal groups. Some closely related taxa, such as Trichoptera and Lepidoptera (Amphiesmenoptera), differ greatly in sperm structure. Sperm characters are very conservative in some groups (Heteroptera, Odonata) but highly variable in others, including Zoraptera, a small and morphologically uniform group with a tremendously accelerated rate of sperm evolution. Unusual patterns such as sperm dimorphism, the formation of bundles, or aflagellate and immotile sperm have evolved independently in several groups.


Hexapoda; evolution; phylogeny; sperm; ultrastructure

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