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Open Access Short report

Sperm storage in caecilian amphibians

Susanne Kuehnel1 and Alexander Kupfer12*

Author Affiliations

1 Institut für Spezielle Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie mit Phyletischem Museum, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Erbertstraße 1, 07743, Jena, Germany

2 Institut für Biochemie und Biologie, Zoologie, Universität Potsdam, Karl-Liebknechtstraße 24-25, 14476, Potsdam, Germany

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Frontiers in Zoology 2012, 9:12  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-9-12

Published: 6 June 2012

Abstract

Background

Female sperm storage has evolved independently multiple times among vertebrates to control reproduction in response to the environment. In internally fertilising amphibians, female salamanders store sperm in cloacal spermathecae, whereas among anurans sperm storage in oviducts is known only in tailed frogs. Facilitated through extensive field sampling following historical observations we tested for sperm storing structures in the female urogenital tract of fossorial, tropical caecilian amphibians.

Findings

In the oviparous Ichthyophis cf. kohtaoensis, aggregated sperm were present in a distinct region of the posterior oviduct but not in the cloaca in six out of seven vitellogenic females prior to oviposition. Spermatozoa were found most abundantly between the mucosal folds. In relation to the reproductive status decreased amounts of sperm were present in gravid females compared to pre-ovulatory females. Sperm were absent in females past oviposition.

Conclusions

Our findings indicate short-term oviductal sperm storage in the oviparous Ichthyophis cf. kohtaoensis. We assume that in female caecilians exhibiting high levels of parental investment sperm storage has evolved in order to optimally coordinate reproductive events and to increase fitness.

Keywords:
Reproduction; Sperm storage; Amphibians; Caecilians