Evidence of simultaneous hermaphroditism in the brooding Diopatra marocensis (Annelida:Onuphidae) from northern Spain

Andrés Arias*, Alexandra Richter, Nuria Anadón, Hannelore Paxton

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    A one-year study of the reproductive biology of a population of Diopatra marocensis at the Villaviciosa estuary, northern Spain, was undertaken with emphasis on brooding behaviour, larval development and gametogenesis. Field observations together with a histological study of monthly collected individuals revealed that the population was iteroparous, reproducing annually during a short breeding season extending from March to June. The study demonstrated that all individuals of the population at Villaviciosa estuary were producing at the same time eggs and sperm providing for the first time evidence for the occurrence of simultaneous hermaphroditism in D. marocensis. Mature sperm was of the ent-aquasperm type and was stored in modified nephridial chambers in brooding individuals. In the latter, eggs in advanced cleavage phases were also observed inside the coelom suggesting that fertilization was internal. Eggs in late vitellogenesis presented micronucleoli in the periphery of the nucleus, a phenomenon reported previously for few polychaete species. Pure males and females were never found. It is here suggested that in D. marocensis population size may influence sex allocation and that under conditions of low population densities simultaneous hermaphrodites may be favoured. The study of the larval development confirmed the direct development reported previously for populations of Morocco and Portugal. Further results suggest consumption of nurse eggs and adelphophagy by developing larvae.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1533-1542
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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