Evolution of the spermatozoon in muroid rodents

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Abstract

In the rodent superfamily Muroidea, a model for the evolution of sperm form has been proposed in which it is suggested that a hook-shaped sperm head and long tail evolved from a more simple, nonhooked head and short tail in several different subfamilies. To test this model the shape of the sperm head, with particular emphasis on its apical region, and length of sperm tail were matched to a recent phylogeny based on the nucleotide sequence of several protein-coding nuclear genes from 3 families and 10 subfamilies of muroid rodents. Data from the two other myomorph superfamilies, the Dipodoidea and kangaroo rats in the Geomyoidea, were used for an outgroup comparison. In most species in all 10 muroid subfamilies, apart from in the Murinae, the sperm head has a long rostral hook largely composed of acrosomal material, although its length and cross-sectional shape vary across the various subfamilies. Nevertheless, in a few species of various lineages a very different sperm morphology occurs in which an apical hook is lacking. In the outgroups the three species of dipodid rodents have a sperm head that lacks a hook, whereas in the heteromyids an acrosome-containing apical hook is present. It is concluded that, as the hook-shaped sperm head and long sperm tail occur across the muroid subfamilies, as well as in the heteromyid rodents, it is likely to be the ancestral condition within each of the subfamilies with the various forms of nonhooked sperm heads, that are sometimes associated with short tails, being highly derived states. These findings thus argue against a repeated evolution in various muroid lineages of a complex, hook-shaped sperm head and long sperm tail from a more simple, nonhooked sperm head and short tail. An alternative proposal for the evolution of sperm form within the Muroidea is presented in the light of these data. J. Morphol. © 2005 Wiley- Liss, Inc.

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