Spermatozoa and spermiogenesis in XyIopIax (Class Concentricycloidea): a new type of spermatozoon in the Echinodermata


Address for reprint requests: F. W. E. Rowe, Division of Invertebrate Zoology (Echinodermata), Australian Museum, Box 285A, Sydney South, NSW 2001, Australia.


In Xylopax turnerae Rowe et al., 1988 (Class Concentricycloidea, Subphylum Asterozoa) from the Caribbean spermiogenesis culminates in the formation of a complex spermatozoon unlike that of any other echinoderm. Mature testicular spermatozoa are composed of: (1) an elongate, tapered acrosome, segmented internally; (2) a nucleus, finely tapered anteriorly, extremely elongate and rod-shaped posteriorly; (3) a single flagellum attached via a centriolar rootlet to the anterior portion of the nucleus; (4) a single elongate mitochondrion located posterior to the nucleus. Spermatozoa deposited in the ovary have acrosomes which are distinctly granular internally: otherwise these cells resemble testicular spermatozoa. Spermiogenesis differs substantially from the pattern observed in other echinoderms, especially in relation to acrosome development. Examination of alcohol-fixed testes from the New Zealand species Xyloplax medusiforrnis confirmed the presence of filiform spermatozoa, but no details could be established. In contrast to Xyloplax, spermatozoa of Caymanostella sp. (Asteroidea) from a similar habitat to Xyloplax are not modified from those of externally fertilizing Asteroidea, Ophiuroidea, Crinoidea and Holothuroidea. Results lend further support to the existence of a separate class of extant echinoderms (Concentricycloidea) for Xyloplax spp.