The functional significance of the spermatophore and the fate of spermatozoa in the genital tract of Helix pomatia (Gastropoda: Stylommatophora)



In the Helicidae and in some other Stylommatophora the sperm are transferred in a spermatophore, even though there appears to be no need for protection of the sperm during the transfer. The function of the spermatophore and related problems concerning the genital organs of Helix pomatia were studied by means of morphological and experimental methods.

The spermatophore is necessary to ensure the functioning of the female system at copulation. Its structure allows some of the spermatozoa it contains to escape through its tail canal, pass from the stalk of the bursa and reach the spermatheca by way of the oviduct; but most of the sperm pass into the bursa copulatrix and are destroyed, as is also the fate of the spermatophore. Only foreign sperm are stored in the spermatheca.

Spermiogenesis was found to take place throughout the whole summer. At intervals some sperm are released from the hermaphrodite duct and are conducted via the spermoviduct and oviduct to the bursa, where they are digested. The two grooves of the spermoviduct are functionally separated only for a few minutes at actual copulation, when sperm are conducted to the copulatory organs, where the spermatophore is being formed.