Sperm storage and motility in the ovary of the marine sculpin Alcichthys alcicornis (Teleostei: Scorpaeniformes), with internal gametic association



Elkhorn sculpin, Alcichthys alcicornis, is a marine teleost with a unique reproductive mode called “internal gametic association,” in which sperm introduced into the ovary by copulation enter the micropylar canal of ovulated eggs in the ovarian cavity, but actual sperm-egg fusion does not occur until the eggs have been released into sea water. It is also known that this fish is a multiple spawner, which spawns at intervals of a few days for one month, and the sperm introduced into the ovary at the beginning of the spawning season retain their fertilizability for the entire period. To clarify how the fertilizability of sperm is maintained internally, the ultrastructure of sperm, the morphological characteristics related to sperm storage in the ovary, and the characteristics of sperm motility were investigated. Mature sperm generally have the normal form of teleost sperm, devoid of acrosomal structures. However, it was found that the midpiece is comparatively elongated and has a compact aggregation of many small-size mitochondria. The intraovarian sperm remained floating in the ovarian fluid throughout the spawning season. The sperm showed high motility in isotonic and weak alkaline solution, containing sodium ions, which was similar to the ovarian fluid of this fish. Sperm continued to move in artificial ovarian fluid for 7–14 days. Considering these results together, it is thought that the intraovarian sperm move throughout the spawning season due to the plentiful energy generated by the many mitochondria. J. Exp. Zool. 292:145–155, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.