Unusual morphological adaptations and processes associated with viviparity in an epizoic dermapteran

20 Jun 2020

Matrotrophic viviparity is a reproductive pattern in which offspring develop inside a female's body which provides gas exchange and nutrients necessary for development. Besides placental mammals, structural and physiological aspects of matrotrophic viviparity are poorly characterized. In insects, the majority of species is oviparous, i.e. lay eggs, and viviparous reproduction has been reported only in 11 out of 44 orders, including earwigs (Dermaptera). Among dermapterans, matrotrophic viviparity has been reported in two epizoic subgroups: Arixeniidae and Hemimeridae. Here, we provide morphological evidence for distinct adaptations for this mode of viviparity in embryonic and maternal tissues in a representative of the latter subgroup, Hemimerus talpoides. Our study reveals a novel mechanism of maternal contribution to embryonic development which operates during oogenesis and involves characteristic modification of endoplasmic reticulum cisternae. Conspicuous and apparently inactive para-crystalline stacks of the endoplasmic reticulum are deposited in the oocyte cytoplasm and become activated during early embryonic development. Our analyses indicate additionally that in Hemimerus, transformed follicular/ovarian cells (on the mother's side) and an evagination of the dorsal vessel (on the embryo's side) converge to form a cephalic vesicle, structure analogous to a placenta. The cellular architecture of this unusual ªcephalic placentaº points to its participation in an exchange of low molecular weight substances between a mother and developing embryo.