Sexual head structures in the onychophora

Unique modifications for sperm transfer

N. N. Tait, D. A. Briscoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


An extensive diversity of male extra-genital sexual structures is described from eleven recently discovered species of onychophorans from Australia. These organs are located on the dorsal surface of the head and are highly elaborate in some species. They range from a patch of variously modified dermal papillae to a deep pit adorned with hardened hooks, spikes or hollow stylets. We propose that these hardened structures are also derived from dermal papillae. In two species, spermatophores have been observed within the organ and it is speculated that they function in the mechanics of sperm transfer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1517-1527
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Natural History
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1990


  • Onychophora
  • Peripatus
  • Reproduction
  • Sperm transfer

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