• mating;
  • reproductive biology;
  • phylogenetic implications

Abstract. The reproductive anatomy of gastrotrichs is well known for several species, especially for the marine taxon Macrodasyida. However, there is little information on the reproductive organs and the modes of mating and sperm transfer in putative basal taxa, which is necessary for accurate reconstruction of the ground pattern of the Gastrotricha. We present the first detailed morphological investigation of the reproductive system of a putative basal gastrotrich, Dactylopodola typhle, using transmission and scanning electron microscopy, histology, and microscopic observations of living specimens. Dactylopodola typhle is a hermaphrodite that possesses paired female and male gonads, an unpaired uterus with an outlet channel that we call the cervix, and an additional accessory reproductive organ, the so-called caudal organ. We hypothesize that the hollow, secretory caudal organ serves for picking up autospermatozoa (self-sperm), for spermatophore formation, and finally for transferring the autospermatophore to a mating partner. The allospermatophore (foreign spermatophore) is stored within the uterus where fertilization occurs. We think that the mature and fertilized egg is released through the cervix and the dorsolateral female gonopore, and not by rupture of the body wall. Based on the morphology, we provide a plausible hypothesis for spermatophore formation and transfer in D. typhle. Preliminary phylogenetic considerations indicate that the stem species of Macrodasyida, perhaps that of all Gastrotricha, had paired ovaries and paired testes, an unpaired uterus, and only one accessory reproductive organ.