Unusual nature and possible evolutionary implications of the male vesicular gland secretion in the tree shrew, Tupaia glis

Anat Rec. 1997 Feb;247(2):199-205. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0185(199702)247:2<199::AID-AR6>3.0.CO;2-T.


Background: Whereas the secretion of the male vesicular gland in most mammals is amorphous, that of the tree shrew, Tupaia glis, was observed to be stored as globules.

Methods: Vesicular and prostate glands from Tupaia, fixed in glutaraldehyde and osmium, were studied in the light and electron microscopes. Other materials considered included the Tupaia ejaculate produced by electroejaculation and, for comparative purposes, sections of the vesicular gland from a dermopteran, the flying lemur.

Results: The vesicular gland epithelium in Tupaia secretes small granular aggregates and occasionally a denser aggregate that is associated with cells having obvious apical Golgi lamellae. In the alveolar lumen, these aggregates unite with others to form, respectively, granular and some dense globules of up to approximately 15 mu in diameter, which appear as such in semen produced by electroejaculation. In contrast to the prostate, however, precursor secretion vesicles were rare in the vesicular epithelium. Although poorly fixed, the vesicular gland secretion from a flying lemur also appeared to form globules.

Conclusions: Although it is unlike the homogeneous secretion elaborated in most mammals, including primates and insectivores, the globular product of the Tupaia vesicular gland seems comparable to that in a variety of mega- and microbats, among representative species of which it appears to provide the bulk material for the vaginal copulation plug. Because a museum specimen examined here also indicates its occurrence in a flying lemur, the globular vesicular gland secretion common to Tupaiidae, to at least some Mega- and Microchiroptera, and apparently to Dermoptera may provide a soft tissue feature of some value in the cladistic approach to phylogenetic reconstruction within the Archonta. Anat.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epididymis / anatomy & histology
  • Epithelium / anatomy & histology
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mammals
  • Prostate / anatomy & histology
  • Prostate / ultrastructure
  • Seminal Vesicles / anatomy & histology*
  • Seminal Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Seminal Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Testis / anatomy & histology
  • Tupaiidae / anatomy & histology*