Male internal reproductive structures of european pea crabs (Crustacea, Decapoda, Brachyura, Pinnotheridae): Vas deferens morphology and spermatozoal ultrastructure



Pea crabs of the subfamily Pinnotherinae (Pinnotheridae) have a high investment in reproduction and an outstanding reproductive output, probably as an adaptation to the required increase in reproductive rate due to the pinnotherids small size and their parasitic, host-dependant way of life. In the present study, we investigate the male internal reproductive structures and the ultrastructure of spermatozoa of Pinnotheres pisum and Nepinnotheres pinnotheres by histological methods and both scanning- and transmission electron microscopy. In the Brachyura, the male internal reproductive systems generally consist of paired testes and corresponding vasa deferentia where spermatozoa develop and mature. Spermatozoal ultrastructure of the investigated pinnotherids conforms to the thoracotreme type, however, N. pinnotheres has an accessory opercular ring and a periopercular rim, neither of which are present in spermatozoa of P. pisum. Spermatozoa are enclosed within spermatophores in the secretory proximal vas deferens. Two types of secretions were observed in P. pisum and N. pinnotheres: an electron dense substance secreted in the proximal vas deferens involved in spermatophore formation, and large electron-luscent vesicles constituting the seminal plasma in the medial and distal vas deferens. The medial vas deferens is strongly widened compared to other brachyurans to purpose storing spermatophores embedded in seminal plasma. Tubular appendices, which produce and store large amounts of seminal plasma, arise from the distal region of the vas deferens. The appendices extend into the ventral cephalothorax and also in the first pleomere. The latter being an exceptional location for reproductive structures among male brachyurans. J. Morphol. 274:1312–1322, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.