Research Article

A comparative study of the reproductive system of mature, immature and ‘unisexual’ female Schistosoma mansoni

David A. Erasmusa1

a1 Department of Zoology, University College, Cardiff, Wales

The ultrastructure of the reproductive system of mature (54-day-old), immature (32-day-old) and females from unisexual infections of Schistosoma mansoni is described in detail. The uterus is tegumentary in structure but the vitelline duct and oviduct are complex and possess cilia as well as lamellae on their luminal surfaces. The characteristics of the cells forming the walls of the ducts suggests that they may have a digestive function. The posterior portion of the oviduct of the adult worm contains sperm which become enveloped by lamellae. The vitelline cells of the adult contain vitelline droplets, much lipid and little glycogen. A second type of body derived from endoplasmic whorls is also present. Mehlis's gland contains only one type of gland cell and these cells pass through the ootype wall and open into its lumen. The female from unisexual infections has an incompletely developed Mehlis's gland, an ovary in which the Golgi complexes do not produce typical cortical granules and has vitelline cells which remain immature. The oviduct, ootype and uterus are well developed in contrast to the vitelline duct. A comparison with young, but not inseminated worms, suggests that the presence of sperm in the oviduct is not the major stimulus which induces maturation of the female worm.

(Received March 19 1973)