Observations of spermiogenesis and epididymal sperm maturation in the rufous hare wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus (Metatheria, Mammalia)


Dr S. D. Johnston, School of Animal Studies, The University of Queensland, Gatton, 4343, Australia. E-mail: s.johnston@mailbox.uq.edu.au


Acrosomal development in the early spermatid of the rufous hare wallaby shows evidence of formation of an acrosomal granule, similar to that found in eutherian mammals, the Phascolarctidae and Vombatidae. Unlike the other members of the Macropodidae so far examined, the acrosome of this species appears to be fully compacted at spermiation and extends evenly over 90% of the dorsal aspect of the nucleus. During spermiogenesis, the nucleus of the rufous hare wallaby spermatid showed evidence of uneven condensation of chromatin; this may also be related to the appearance of unusual nucleoplasm evaginations from the surface of the fully condensed spermatid. This study was unable to find evidence of the presence of Sertoli cell spurs or nuclear rotation during spermiogenesis in the rufous hare wallaby. The majority of spermatozoa immediately before spermiation had a nucleus that was essentially perpendicular to the long axis of the sperm tail. Nuclei of spermatozoa found in the process of being released or isolated in the lumen of the seminiferous tubule were rotated almost parallel to the long axis of the flagellum; complete parallel alignment occurred during epididymal maturation. At spermiation spermatozoa have characteristically small cytoplasmic remnants compared to those of other macropods. Unlike the majority of macropodid spermatozoa so far described, the spermatozoa of the rufous hare wallaby showed little evidence of morphological change during epididymal transit. There was no formation of a fibre network around the midpiece or of plasma membrane specializations in this region; the only notable change was a distinctive flattening of midpiece mitochondria and scalloping of the anterior mitochondrial sheath to accommodate the sperm head. Preliminary evidence from spermiogenesis and epididymal sperm maturation supports the classification of the rufous hare wallaby as a separate genus but also indicates that its higher taxonomic position may need to be re-evaluated.