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Abstract

Reproductive organs of four botryllid ascidians, Botryllus primigenus, Botryllus schlosseri, Botrylloides violaceus and Botrylloides leachi, were studied histologically. In every species, the egg follicle consisting of an egg and its inner and outer follicles, is attached to the follicle stalk, the vesicle being composed of a flat epithelium, which in its turn is connected to the atrial epithelium or to the brood pouch specialized from it. In B. schlosseri, the egg is ovulated into the atrial cavity and remains there held by the brood cup, of which the inner epithelium is derived from the follicle stalk and the outer one from the atrial epithelium. In B. primigenus, the brood pouch develops as a diverticulum of the atrial cavity, around the entrance of which a fold differentiates from the atrial epithelium and closes the pouch during embryogenesis. In both species of Botrylloides, the brood pouch is formed by the outgrowth of the thickened atrial epithelium into the blood space, the entrance of which is closed during embryogenesis. The discarded outer follicle completely disintegrates soon after ovulation in B. schlosseri, but part of it remains throughout embryogenesis in the blood space in B. primigenus or projecting into the interior of the brood pouch in Botrylloides. In B. primigenus, the testis, when it accompanies the egg follicle, is placed at the bottom of the brood pouch and the sperm is shed through the pouch prior to ovulation. In B. schlosseri and the Botrylloides species, the testis is located independently from the egg follicle and the sperm matures after ovulation.