• Starksiini blennies;
  • reproductive organs;
  • internal fertilization;
  • ovuliparity;
  • zygoparity;
  • embryoparity;
  • comparative biology


A comparative study of the reproductive organs in 17 of the 30 species of the tribe Starksiini (Labrisomidae, Blenniiformes) and related labrisomids reveals the major traits of gamete form and production and likely reproductive modes. The testes are of the lobular type and have a testicular gland and sperm ducts. Isodiametric sperm (aquasperm) with a globular head or anisodiametric sperm (introsperm) with an elongate head, or both, were observed in the studied species. Both types have either one or two flagella in the sperm tail. Ovaries of the Starksiini are bilobed and exhibit synchronous or asynchronous egg production. Although viviparity or “ovoviviparity” reportedly characterizes the group, our study revealed evidence of both internal and external fertilization and three modes of reproduction. External fertilization or ovuliparity is suggested for the Starksia atlantica and S. lepicoelia species complexes by the presence in males of a short genital papilla that is not reinforced through adhesion with the first anal-fin spine and by the absence of sperm within the ovaries. Internal fertilization and zygoparity is indicated for most species by the presence of an intromittent papilla in males that is adhered to the first anal-fin spine, “nests” of sperm within the ovaries, absence of embryos within the ovarian lamellae and usually thick egg envelopes bearing dense covers of adhesive filaments. Internal fertilization and embryoparity is indicated for starksia fulva and Xenomedea rhodopyga by an intromittent papilla that is adhered to the first anal-fin spine of males, anisodiametric sperm in males, delicate egg envelopes without adhesive filaments and developing embryos within follicular envelopes or within the follicle in females. Although many of these features are seen in the internally fertilizing clinid blennies, starksiins differ in retaining the testicular gland typical of labrisomids and in lacking sperm packaging typical of other internally fertilizing teleosts. J. Morphol., 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.