The spider Harpactea sadistica: co-evolution of traumatic insemination and complex female genital morphology in spiders

Milan Řezáč


The males of invertebrates from a few phyla, including arthropods, have been reported to practise traumatic insemination (TI; i.e. injecting sperm by using the copulatory organ to penetrate the female's body wall). As all previously reported arthropod examples have been insects, there is considerable interest in whether TI might have evolved independently in other arthropods. The research reported here demonstrates the first case of TI in the arthropod subphylum Chelicerata, in particular how the genital morphology and mating behaviour of Harpactea sadistica (Řezáč 2008), a spider from Israel, has become adapted specifically for reproduction based on TI. Males have needle-like intromittent organs and females have atrophied spermathecae. In other spiders, eggs are fertilized simultaneously with oviposition, but the eggs of H. sadistica are fertilized in the ovaries (internal fertilization) and develop as embryos before being laid. Sperm-storage organs of phylogenetically basal groups to H. sadistica provide males with last male sperm priority and allow removal of sperm by males that mate later, suggesting that TI might have evolved as an adaptive strategy to circumvent an unfavourable structure of the sperm-storage organs, allowing the first male to mate with paternity advantage. Understanding the functional significance of TI gives us insight into factors underlying the evolution of the genital and sperm-storage morphology in spiders.


    • Received January 20, 2009.
    • Accepted April 8, 2009.
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