Scientia Marina, Vol 70, No 4 (2006)

Sperm ultra-structure and spermiogenesis in Syllis krohni (Polychaeta: Syllidae), with some observations on its reproductive biology

Elena Lepore
Dipartimento di Zoologia, Università di Bari, Italy

Margherita Sciscioli
Dipartimento di Zoologia, Università di Bari, Italy

Maria Mastrodonato
Dipartimento di Zoologia, Università di Bari, Italy

Miriam Gherardi
Dipartimento di Zoologia, Università di Bari, Italy

Adriana Giangrande
Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche e Ambientali, Università di Lecce, Italy

Luigi Musco
Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche e Ambientali, Università di Lecce, Italy


yllidae show a wide spectrum of both reproductive strategies and sperm types. Analysis of their reproductive patterns could drastically change the presently accepted taxonomic hierarchy of the group. To further contribute to the knowledge of Syllidae we have described the sperm ultra-structure and the spermiogenesis of Syllis krohni (Ehlers, 1864). Mature sperm has a cone-shaped acrosome whose distal end is notched by a trough that transversely encircles its anterior portion. During spermiogenesis, the acrosomal vesicle undergoes modifications leading to its final shape with a posterior opening. The nucleus appears flattened anteriorly and forms a cleft that surrounds the proximal centriole in its distal region. A 9+2 flagellar axoneme is observed. Up to five mitochondria surround the distal centriole. The spermatozoon of S. krohni can be ascribed to the ect-aquasperm type that is typical in species having external fertilisation and appears to be very similar in appearance to that of the congeneric species thus far investigated. The main difference is in the shape of the acrosome, which is more elongated and as long as the nucleus. Reproduction of syllids seems to be conservative within sub-families, and the sperm morphology can probably help in phylogenetic reconstruction. External fertilisation is a widespread strategy within the genus Syllis, probably leading to a substantial similarity in sperm morphology being maintained. It is hypothesised, however, that within the same sperm type linked to a particularly reproductive strategy, the acrosome ultra-structure can be indicative of phylogeny.


sperm morphology; ultra-structure; Polychaeta; Syllidae; phylogeny

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