Sperm storage by females has reached an extreme degree of development in ants. Ant queens, which are unusually long-lived insects, typically store and maintain an unreplenished supply of viable sperm for ten or more years. The spermatheca of Crematogaster opuntiae includes a receptacle and a discrete pair of accessory, or spermathecal, glands, structures commonly found in sperm storage organs of insects. The bean-shaped receptacle consists of a layer of simple epithelium externally and a cuticular layer internally. In the hilar region, the epithelium is highly columnar and exhibits ultrastructural features characteristic of transport epithelia, such as infolded basal membranes, abundant polymorphic mitochondria, and apical microvilli. The spermathecal glands contain cells that have long, dense microvilli that project into a central lumen, abundant mitochondria, and large fields of glycogen. The valve and pump region of the spermatheca provide a mechanism to conserve sperm by controlling the rate of sperm release. The columnar epithelium may function as excretory tissue that serves to maintain an environment in which sperm can remain viable for many years.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology