Sperm dumping in a haplogyne spider


Matthias Burger. Current address: American Museum of Natural History, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Central Park West at 79th Street, 10024 New York, NY, USA. Tel: +212 769 5618
Email: burgermatthias@hotmail.com


The present study shows that females of Silhouettella loricatula (Arachnida: Araneae: Oonopidae) manage to process sperm in an unusual and previously unknown way. The male ejaculate consisting of spermatozoa and globular secretion is enclosed in a secretory sac. This may avoid the mixing of sperm from different males and at least severely limit sperm competition. The process of sperm enclosure occurs within the female's sperm storage site (receptaculum) as the ejaculate is not surrounded by a sac inside the male's sperm-transferring organs (palpal bulbs). The secretion forming the sac is produced by glands adjoining the receptaculum. The possibility that globular secretions in the male palpal bulbs partly contribute to the sac cannot be ruled out completely. It is suggested that in S. loricatula, the main function of sperm enclosure in a sac is enabling females to dump the ejaculate of a male. The present study represents the first report on sperm dumping in the family Oonopidae. During five first and three second copulations in the laboratory, the dumping of a sac was observed. One dumped sac was sectioned and contained spermatozoa. Two couples were flash-fixed with liquid nitrogen early during copulation, which revealed the mechanism of the sac dumping. By muscle contractions, the receptaculum is bent backwards and the sac moved into the genital opening. The actual sac dumping occurs most probably in cooperation with the male, which moves his pedipalps rhythmically during the entire copulation. Extensions and furrows on the emboli suggest that they may additionally be used as copulatory courtship devices. The enclosure of sperm from the current male in secretion takes place during or immediately following copulation as all mated females sacrificed after copulation had a new sac containing spermatozoa in the receptaculum. Dumping sperm of a previous male during the next copulation may allow females to bias sperm precedence.