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Abstract

The reproductive biology of the female little mastiff bat (Mormopterus planiceps) was studied from specimens obtained throughout the year in southeast Australia, within the region occupied only by the long penile form of this species.

Mormopterus planiceps appeared to undergo a single pregnancy each year and was monotocous. Conception occurred during late winter/early spring after a protracted proestrus, during which the uterine/vaginal epithelia attained an extraordinary thickness; spermatozoa were present in the uterine corpus, vagina, and intramural oviduct for at least 2 months prior to ovulation, although only those present in the oviducts were entire and thus appeared to be viable. Following ovulation, a massive postovulatory infiltration of phagocytes occurred; and the thickness of the uterine corpus epithelium was dramatically reduced. As in other molossids, the tract was bicornuate and dextrally functional.

The length of gestation was difficult to determine because early embryonic stages, up to implantation, appeared to span several months (late July/August/September) as did parturition (December/January). Growth of the young was slow; nevertheless, females attained sexual maturity in their first year.

Several unusual features included the presence of a long os clitoridis, and tubuloalveolar sudoriferous and associated lobulated, sebaceous, paravaginal glands, which surrounded and emptied into the lower vagina. A deep fornix anterior and lateral to the cervix probably serves to receive the secondary glans penis. The epithelium of the uterine corpus was stratified and indistinguishable, in its cytology and cyclicity, from that of the vagina; furthermore, it lacked a glandular endometrium. This portion of the female tract likely receives the elongated primary glans.

These findings are discussed in relation to other Molossidae and to the reproductive biology of male M. planiceps. Although the number of animals sampled was relatively small, the data suggest that this species does not exhibit the usual temperate molossid pattern of late winter/spring coincidence of spermatogenesis and ovulation. It would seem that pregnancy may begin, at least in some individuals, during the inhospitable winter months (when epididymal and uterine spermatozoa are abundant but spermatogenesis has largely terminated) and that additional conceptions continue into the early spring. The occurrence of sperm storage in both sexes of this species is unique among Molossidae studied to date.