A one-year study of the reproductive biology of a population of Diopatra neapolitana at Villaviciosa estuary, northern Spain, was undertaken. Field observations together with a histological study of monthly collected individuals revealed that the population was iteroparous, had a discontinuous reproductive season with a resting period during August and September and a spawning season from March to July. The study showed that D. neapolitana was not dioecious as previously suggested but consisted of protandric sequential hermaphrodites, pure males and pure females with a male biased sex ratio of 3:1. During the peak reproductive period from May to August we observed simultaneous hermaphrodites with two dorsal papillae per segment in the branchial region. Histological studies demonstrated that the papillae were acting as seminal vesicles, storing own sperm, and also as sperm ducts, providing an exit route; hence we termed them 'spermaducal papillae'. The papillae are not the only sperm repositories as the coelom of males and simultaneous hermaphrodites in smaller size classes is also filled with sperm. The worms are broadcast spawners with a brief pelagic larval stage as previously reported but the finer points of this unusual fertilisation system need still to be elaborated. Diopatra cryptornata was recently described as a new species, supposedly differing from D. neapolitana in chaetal detail and the possession of the papillae. We have shown conclusively with morphological and genetical studies that the former species is a junior synonym of the latter. In the absence of type material we are here designating a neotype from recently collected material from Naples.
- sediment-stabilising species