Love Dart - Anatomical Context

Anatomical Context

Note: The taxonomic placement of all the families mentioned in this article follows the taxonomy of the Gastropoda by Bouchet & Rocroi (2005).

There is a complex hermaphroditic reproductive system in pulmonate snails (those snails that have a lung rather than a gill or gills.) Their reproductive system is completely internal, except for the active protrusion (eversion) of the penis for copulation. The outer opening of the reproductive system is called the "genital pore"; it is positioned on the right hand side, very close to the head of the animal. This opening is virtually invisible however, unless it is actively in use.

The love dart is created and stored before use in a highly muscular internal anatomical structure known as the stylophore or dart sac (also known as the bursa telae). The exact positioning of the stylophore varies, but it is in the vicinity of the eversible penis and the vagina, where these two structures open into the "atrium", a common area right inside the genital pore.

The opening of the stylophore leads directly into the atrium in certain species in the families Vitrinidae, Parmacellidae, Helminthoglyptidae, Bradybaenidae, Urocyclidae, Ariophantidae, and Dyakiidae. The opening of the stylophore can instead lead to the penis, as is the case in some species of Aneitinae (a subfamily of Athoracophoridae), Sagdidae, Euconulidae, Gastrodontidae and Onchidiidae. Alternatively, it can lead to the vagina, as in the case in some species of Ariopeltinae (a subfamily of Oopeltidae), Ariolimacinae (a subfamily of Ariolimacidae), Philomycidae, other species within the Bradybaenidae, and also in the Hygromiidae, Helicidae and Dyakiidae.

Only two families have darts present in every species: the Bradybaenidae and in the Dyakiidae. In all the other families there is reduction or loss of dart-making ability in some of the species (cf.).

Many species have only one dart sac, however other species have several. Snails in the family Bradybaenidae have more than one dart sac, and some species of Hygromiidae and Helmintoglyptidae have four dart sacs. Some Urocyclidae have up to 70 darts.

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