Morphology and histology of male and female reproductive systems in the inseminating species Scoloplax distolothrix (Ostariophysi : Siluriformes : Scoloplacidae)
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The morphology and histology of male and female reproductive systems were examined in Scoloplax distolothrix. Internal insemination was documented in this species by the presence of sperm within the ovaries. Mature males and females have elongated genital papillae, exhibiting a tubular shape in males and a plain heart-shape with two median protuberances in females. The testes are two elongated structures that converge ventrally, under the intestine, towards the genital papilla. They are joined at the caudal end, forming an ovoid single chamber for sperm storage. Secretory regions were not observed. In the lumen of the testicular tubules, spermatozoa can be tightly packed along their lengths, but do not constitute a spermatozeugmata. The lumen of the sperm storage chamber and spermatic duct are filled with free spermatozoa without the accompanying secretions. The ovaries are bird-wing shaped, saccular structures that converge ventrally under the intestine, towards the genital papilla. They are joined at the caudal end, forming a tubular chamber possibly destined for oocyte storage. An oviduct with an irregular outline connects the chamber to the tubular region of the genital papilla. No distinct sperm storage structure was found in the ovaries. The unique male and female genital papillae suggest that these structures are associated with the reproductive mode in scoloplacids, representing evidence for insemination. The occurrence of free spermatozoa, without the accompanying secretions and not arranged in a spermatozeugmata can be associated with the presence of a tubular male genital papilla for sperm transfer to the female genital tract. This reinforces the idea that sperm packets are not necessary for all inseminating species. The male reproductive system in scoloplacids is very different from that in auchenipterids, a second catfish family with insemination, which indicates that the occurrence of insemination is not connected to the internal morphology of reproductive organs.