The male copulatory system of european pea crabs (crustacea, brachyura, pinnotheridae)



The male copulatory system of the European pinnotherid species Pinnotheres pisum, Pinnotheres pectunculi, and Nepinnotheres pinnotheres was investigated by gross morphology, scanning electron microscopy, histological methods, and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The brachyuran copulatory system is consistently formed by paired penes and two pairs of abdominal appendages, the gonopods, functioning in sperm transfer. In pinnotherids, the long first gonopods transfer the sperm mass into the female ducts. The first gonopod has the ejaculatory canal inside that opens both basally and distally. The second gonopod is solid, short, and conical. During copulation, the penis and the second gonopod are inserted into the basal lumen of the first gonopod. While the penis injects the sperm mass, the second gonopod functions in the transport of spermatozoa inside the ejaculatory canal toward its distal opening. The second gonopod is adapted for the sealing of the tubular system in the first gonopod by its specific shape and the ability to swell. Longitudinal cuticle foldings of the second gonopod hook into structures inside the first gonopod. The second gonopod can interact with the penis during copulation by a flexible flap separating the lumina in which the second gonopod and the penis are inserted. J. Morphol., 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.