Structure and function of the spermathecal complex in the phlebotomine sandflyPhlebotomus papatasi Scopoli (Diptera: Psychodidae): I. Ultrastructure and histology
Females of phlebotomine sandflies (Diptera: Psychodidae) possess highly variable spermathecae that present several important taxonomic characters. The cause of this diversity remains a neglected field of sandfly biology, but may possibly be due to female post-mating sexual selection. To understand this diversity, a detailed study of the structure and function of the spermathecal complex in at least one of the species was a prerequisite. Using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, described here is ultrastructure of the spermathecal complex in the sand fly,Phlebotomus papatasi Scopoli. The spermathecal complexes are paired; each consists of a long spermathecal duct, a cylindrical spermathecal body, and a spherical spermathecal gland. Muscle fibres, nerves, tracheoles, and vascular sinuses connect the spermathecal body and duct through the epithelial layers. Spermathecal gland is formed by a typical insect epidermis and consisting of an epithelial layer of class-1 epidermal cells and elaborate glandular cells of class-3 epidermal cells, each having both receiving and conducting ductules (i.e. “end apparatus”) and a “cytological apodeme”, which is a newly described cell structure. The spermathecal body and duct are lined by class-1 epidermal cells and a cuticle, and are enveloped by a super-contracting visceral muscular system. The cuticle consists of rubber-like resilin, and its fibrillar arrangement and chemical nature are described. A well-developed neuromuscular junction exists between the spermathecal gland and the spermathecal body, which are connected to each other by a nerve and a muscle. The spermathecal complexes of the sandfly are compared with those of other insect species. The physiological role and possible evolutionary significance of the different parts of spermathecal complex in the sandfly are inferred from the morphology and behaviour. Post-mating sexual selection may be responsible for the structural uniqueness of the spermathecal complex in phlebotomine sandflies.
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