Onychophora - Anatomy - Reproductive Organs

Reproductive Organs

Both sexes possess pairs of gonads, opening via a channel called a gonoduct into a common genital opening, the gonopore, which is located on the rear ventral side. Both the gonads and the gonoduct are derived from true coelom tissue.

In females, the two ovaries are joined in the middle and to the horizontal diaphragm. The gonoduct appears differently depending on whether the species is live-bearing or egg-laying. In the former, each exit channel divides into a slender oviduct and a roomy "womb", the uterus, in which the embryos develop. The single vagina, to which both uteri are connected, runs outward to the gonopore. In egg-laying species, whose gonoduct is uniformly constructed, the genital opening lies at the tip of a long egg-laying apparatus, the ovipositor. The females of many species also possess a sperm repository called the receptacle seminis, in which sperm cells from males can be stored temporarily or for longer periods.

Males possess two separate testes, along with the corresponding sperm vesicle (the vesicula seminalis) and exit channel (the vasa efferentia). The two vasa efferentia unite to a common sperm duct, the vas deferens, which in turn widens through the ejaculatory channel to open at the gonopore. Directly beside or behind this lie two pairs of special glands, which probably serve an auxiliary reproductive function; the rearmost glands are also known as anal glands.

A penis-like structure has so far only been found in males of the genus Paraperipatus but has not yet been observed in action. As previously mentioned, males of many Australian species exhibit special structures on the head, which apparently take over certain tasks in transferring sperm to the females. In the species Euperipatoides rowelli, sperm is collected by these structures, and, when a female is encountered, the worm inserts its head in the vagina.

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