Thursday, August 25, 2016

complex matings 101

Bursa Copula - nice name for an online avatar. What does it mean? "sperm digestion organ"
Reading into snail reproduction (pulmonates) and its mating strategy, has been the bizzare experience of the day. At some point in the past, I had decided to make a tee explaining their lovemaking (in Limax) , but never came around to it; and since, the information has been much forgotten, reduced to its essentials of - "snails mate funny", and "everted penis must be difficult".
It becomes difficult to converse with parents when one's head is trying to grasp the mating of gastropods.

The terrestrial gastropods are mostly simultaneous hermaphrodites (monoecious i.e. containing both reproductive parts on the same organism). Their entire reproductive system is a consuming read.
A coupla interesting features, that I got to learn about:

1. bursa copulatrix

aka the common oviduct
a depression around the genital aperture of insects which receives the male organ during copulation.
a thin fan or bell-shaped expansion of the cuticle of the tail of many male nematode worms that functions as a copulatory structure

2. The Love Dart
aka the Gypsobelum
This is a chitinous (sometimes calcerous or cartiliginous) harpoon-like structure that is formed inside the reproductive tract of gastropods. It resides in the stylophore, or the dart sac. During mating, at the epic moment when the two genital openings come into contact, the dart is fired into the other. Funny, that virgin snails will never have this structure, but it grows after the first mating - that, I think, is the most obvious sign of a nonvirgin, which sadly is a feature not present in humans.

It has a very complicated function that has mystified researchers - until now, that is. Newer research has given us an understanding that the mucus of the dart contains an allohormone (a hormone-like substance) that suppress (or mitigates) the digestive function of the Bursa Copula, and hence allows a greater amount of sperm to make its way through the tract. Why do they need more sperm they can handle at a time, because this sperm can be stored for a long time (in the spermathecae), and used for fertilization later on.
If a snail can fire this successfully, the reproductive outcome is highly favored. If not, the other party has the risk of internal damage, even leading to death!

The mating dance is also an interesting read.

The genital pore (from which comes out the entire reproductive paraphernalia during reproduction) of snails is positioned on the right side of the body, very close to the head. A mating ritual has the snails stimulating regions close to each other's heads, to draw out the genital apparatus (which is a white globby mass).

Most species have a single dart, while some of the Urocyclidae family have upto 70!

In a nutshell

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