The gonads and sexual cycle of the polystyelid ascidian Distomus variolosus gaertner



Distomus variolosus from Roscoff, France, comprises two sorts, differing in their branchial and gonadal patterns. Their sexual cycle has been followed histologically and micro-anatomically. Gonads begin as clumps of lymphocytes that persist along germinal tracts. Cavitation of the clump, growth of the gonoduct, maturation of the gametes, and elaboration of accessory structures are described. Oocytes develop in a linear series in each ovary; only one or two reach maturity in each gonad. The released egg and subsequent tadpole may be held to the ovary by a “leash” formed of the partially everted outer follicle of the egg. Post-mature gonads deteriorate. Testes disrupt altogether; ovaries may persist as moribund loci of remnant germinal tissue. The sharp right-left hermaphroditism of the zooid appears to combine with a subtler anterior-posterior gradient of sexual determination.