Renal sexual segment of the ground skink, Scincella laterale (Reptilia, Squamata, Scincidae)


  • David M. Sever,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana 70402
    • Department of Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA 70402
    Search for more papers by this author
  • William A. Hopkins

    1. University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Aiken, South Carolina 29803
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061
    Search for more papers by this author

  • This article is a US Government work and, as such, is in the public domain in the United States of America.


Mature squamates possess hypertrophied regions of the distal urinary ducts, the renal sexual segment (RSS). The RSS is believed to provide seminal fluid that mixes with sperm and is released into the female cloaca during coitus. This study is the first to describe ultrastructure of the RSS in a lizard collected throughout the active season. The species examined, Scincella laterale, represents the largest family (Scincidae: 1,200 species) of lizards. Although sperm are present in the posterior ductus deferens of male S. laterale throughout the year, an annual spermatogenic cycle occurs that results in spermiation in spring, coinciding with maximum development of the RSS. Female S. laterale may possess stored sperm in vaginal crypts from March–May and large oviductal eggs April–June. Thus, the correlation between mating and RSS activity observed in other squamates is also found in S. laterale. Cytologically, the active RSS consists of columnar cells with numerous apical, electron-dense secretory vacuoles which are released by an apocrine process. The granules stain positively for proteins with bromphenol blue and react with PAS for neutral carbohydrates. After the mating season the RSS undergoes recrudescence and the electron-dense granules are replaced by a mucoid secretion that characterizes more proximal portions of the nephric tubules throughout the year. Little variation in ultrastructure of the RSS occurs between S. laterale and Cnemidophorus lemniscatus (Teiidae), the only other lizard in which seasonal variation of the RSS has been studied using similar methods. Females exhibit differentiation similar to that of males in the distal urinary tubules, but to a lesser degree. This is only the second such report for female squamates, and the differentiation of the region in females is proposed to result from adrenal androgens. J. Morphol. Published 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.