• Cosmetidae;
  • Gonyleptidae;
  • Cranaidae;
  • morphology;
  • histology


In at least four closely related families of the diverse harvestmen lineage Gonyleptoidea, males may possess sexually dimorphic tarsal glands in the swollen tarsomeres of the basitarsus and/or metatarsus of leg I. The first histological and ultrastructural examination of the sexually dimorphic tarsal glands in leg I focused only on Manaosbiidae. In this study, we examine the morphology and ultrastructure of the sexually dimorphic glands, and their associated glandular openings, found in the basitarsus and/or metatarsus of leg I of males representing Cosmetidae, Gonyleptidae, and Cranaidae (glandular openings only). In cosmetids and gonyleptids, the tarsal glands are made up of 20–60 glandular units that form distinct groups within the prolateral and retrolateral half of the tarsomere. Each glandular unit consists of a pair of terminal secretory cells, an intercalary cell wrapped around the receiving canal, and a canal cell tightly wrapped around the length of the conducting canal. Cosmetidae, Gonyleptidae, and Cranaidae exhibit remarkably similar tarsal glands and gland openings although the location of the glands in the leg differs slightly among them. Males of these three families exhibit markedly different glands and glandular openings compared to males of the family Manaosbiidae. The sexually dimorphic tarsal glands may provide an important morphological character for determining phylogenetic relationships among gonyleptoid families. Finally, we provide morphological and ultrastructural data for the common tegumental glands. These data indicate that the sexually dimorphic tarsal glands are strikingly similar to, and may possibly be derived from, the tegumental glands. J. Morphol. 274:1203–1215, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.