Hilario, A., Young, C.M. and Tyler, P.A.
Sperm storage, internal fertilization, and embryonic dispersal in vent and seep tubeworms (Polychaeta: Siboglinidae: Vestimentifera)
Biological Bulletin, 208, (1), .
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Vestimentiferan tubeworms are ecologically important members of deep-sea chemosynthetic communities, including hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. Some are community dominants and others are primary colonists of new vent sites; they include some of the longest living and fastest growing marine invertebrates. Their mechanisms of propagation, dispersal, and genetic exchange have been widely discussed. Direct sperm transfer from males to females has been documented in one species, Ridgeia piscesae, but others are known to discharge what are apparently primary oocytes. Brooding of embryos has never been observed in any vestimentiferan. These observations have led to the supposition that fertilization might be external in most species. Here we report sperm storage at the posterior end of the oviduct in five species, including tubeworms from both vents and seeps. We show experimentally that most eggs are inseminated internally, that fertilization rate is typically lower than 100%, that meiosis is completed after eggs are released from the female, and that the dispersal phase includes the entire embryonic period.
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