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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Sperm ultrastructure in two species of the polychaete genusHarmothoe (Polynoidae)

  • M. G. Bentley1 and
  • Katrin Serries1, 2
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen46:BF02366053


The structure of spermatozoa is described for two species of polynoid polychaete,Harmothoe imbricata andHarmothoe impar, from material fixed and examined by both scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The two species undergo spermiogenesis within discrete testes. The testis ofH. imbricata is shown to have a layer of epithelial cells which possess an outer cuticular layer and a microvillous inner surface. Spermatocytes of both species are spherical but there are marked differences in the shape and size of the spermatozoa of the two species.H. impar has a classical primitive spermatozoon with a rounded head (2 μm long) and a button-shaped acrosome. Fully differentiated spermatozoa ofH. imbricata are modified from the primitive form by having a long head (10 μm length) with a pointed acrosome about 6 μm in length. Spermatozoa ofH. imbricata have a ring of up to fourteen mitochondria around a centrally inserted flagellum at the posterior whereasH. impar has a ring of four or five spherical mitochondria. Spermiogenesis is well synchronised inH. imbricata but all developmental stages can be found simultaneously in the testis ofH. impar. The differences in sperm structure of the two species may be related to differences in breeding biology which are hitherto unknown.


MicroscopyElectron MicroscopyWaste WaterEpithelial CellTransmission Electron Microscopy