Development and Comparative Morphology of the Reproductive System in Different Aged Males of the Drywood Termite Cryptotermes Brevis (Blattaria, Isoptera, Kalotermitidae)

Protoplasma. 2020 Jan;257(1):31-42. doi: 10.1007/s00709-019-01417-8. Epub 2019 Jul 18.


Termites are eusocial cockroaches, which have received great attention due to their diversity of reproductive strategies. Although these novelties allow new interpretations concerning the mating biology of these insects, studies highlighting the structure of the reproductive system are limited to some termite lineages. Here we provide the first comparative analysis of the reproductive system of a drywood termite, using different aged males of Cryptotermes brevis as models. This species represents an important structural pest in tropical regions, and most aspects of its reproductive biology remain unknown, especially on males. The reproductive apparatus of C. brevis is equipped with paired testes, composed of seven testicular lobes, in which developing spermatozoa are located. The basal portion of the lobes connects to the vasa deferentia and transport spermatozoa to a pair of enlarged chambers, the seminal vesicles. These structures join in a median ejaculatory duct, which opens to the external region through a retractile penis. Spermatozoa were observed in all C. brevis males, exhibiting elongated morphology and measuring about 10 μm in length/4 μm in width. Compared with last-instar nymphs and alates, functional kings showed enlarged testes and seminal vesicles, as well as an intense secretory activity towards the lumen of the latter structures. Histochemical tests evidenced strongly PAS and xylidine Ponceau positive reactions of the secretion only in functional kings, indicating the occurrence of glycoproteins. Thus, we suggest that morphophysiological changes establish during the maturation of the reproductive system in C. brevis.

Keywords: Alates; Gonads; Seminal vesicles; Spermatogenesis; Termite kings; Testes.