Female genital system of the folding-trapdoor spider Antrodiaetus unicolor (Hentz, 1842) (Antrodiaetidae, Araneae): Ultrastructural study of form and function with notes on reproductive biology of spiders



The genitalia of the female folding-trapdoor spider Antrodiaetus unicolor are characterized by two pairs of spermathecae that are arranged in a single row and connected to the roof of the bursa copulatrix. Each single spermatheca is divided into three main parts: stalk, bowl, and bulb, which are surrounded by the spermathecal gland. The epithelium of the spermathecal gland is underlain by a muscle meshwork and consists of different types of cells partly belonging to glandular cell units (Class 3 gland cells) that extend into pores in the cuticle of the stalk and bowl. Interestingly, the bulb lacks glandular pores and is characterized by a weakly sclerotized cuticle. This peculiarly structured bulb probably plays an important role in the discharge of the sperm mass. It is suggested that by contraction of the muscle layer the sperm mass may be squeezed out, when the bulb invaginates and expands into the spermathecal lumen, pushing the sperm to the uterus lumen. Each glandular unit consists of usually one or two central secretory cells that are for the most part surrounded by a connecting cell that again is surrounded by a canal cell. The canal cell, finally, is separated from the other epithelial cells (intercalary cells) located between the glandular units by several thin sheath cells that form the outer enveloping layer of the unit. The secretions are released through a cuticular duct that originates proximally between the apical part of the connecting cell and the apical microvilli of the secretory cells and runs into a pore of the spermathecal cuticle. The glandular products of the Class 3 gland cells likely contribute to the conditions allowing long-term storage of the spermatozoa in this species. Details regarding the ovary, the uterus internus, and the uterus externus are reported. Most of the secretion that composes the chorion of the egg is produced in the ovary. Glandular cell units observed in the uterus externus differ structurally from those in the spermathecae and likely play a different role. Finally, we briefly discuss our results on the female genitalia of A. unicolor in the light of knowledge about the reproductive biology of spiders. J. Morphol. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.