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The male genital system of the cellar spider Pholcus phalangioides (Fuesslin, 1775) (Pholcidae, Araneae): development of spermatozoa and seminal secretion

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Author(s): Michalik Peter | Uhl Gabriele

Journal: Frontiers in Zoology
ISSN 1742-9994

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 12;
Date: 2005;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Most arthropods pass through several molting stages (instars) before reaching sexual maturity. In spiders, very little is known about the male genital system, its development and seminal secretions. For example, it is unknown whether spermatozoa exist prior to-, or only after the final molt. Likewise, it is unclear whether sperm are produced throughout male adulthood or only once in a lifetime, as is whether seminal secretions contain factors capable of manipulating female behavior. In order to shed light on these aspects of the reproductive biology of spiders, we investigated the male genital system of the common cellar spider Pholcus phalangioides, with special emphasis on its development and seminal secretions. Results Testes already display all stages of spermatogenesis in subadult males (about four weeks before the final molt). Their vasa deferentia possess proximally a very voluminous lumen containing dense seminal fluid and few spermatozoa, whereas the distal part is seemingly devoid of contents. Spermatoza of P. phalangioides are typical cleistospermia with individual secretion sheaths. In male stages approximately two weeks prior to the final molt, the lumina of the testes are wider and filled with a dense secretion. The wide, proximal portion of the vasa deferentia is filled with secretion and a large number of spermatozoa, and the narrow distal part also contains secretion. In adult males, the wide lumina of the testes are packed with spermatozoa and secretions. The latter are produced by the somatic cells that bear microvilli and contain many vesicles. The lumina of the vasa deferentia are narrow and filled with spermatozoa and secretions. We could identify a dense matrix of secretion consisting of mucosubstances and at least three types of secretion droplets, likely consisting of proteinaceous substances. Conclusion This study reveals that spermatogenesis begins weeks before maturity and takes place continuously in the long-lived males of P. phalangioides. Possible functions of the various types of secretion in the seminal fluid and previously investigated female secretions are discussed in the light of sexual selection.

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