Sperm displacement in a millipede? An investigation into the genital morphology of the southern African spirostreptid millipede Orthoporus pyrhocephalus



Male and female genital morphology of the spirostreptid millipede Orthoporus pyrhocephalus was examined by conventional and scanning electron microscopy techniques. The relative syncopulatory positions of the genitalia were established through dissections of pairs in copula. Male gonopods bear scoops and regions of pitted spines. both of which are similar in form to morphological structures implicated in insect sperm displacement. Consideration of the position of the oviduct-spermathecal junction in females predicts that displacement is restricted to a sperm removal mechanism. The importance of spermathecal shape in determining sperm precedence patterns is discussed. The orientation of the genitalia during copulation indicates that sperm displacement is plausible and a mechanism of gonopod action is suggested.