Anatomy of virgin and mature externae of Loxothylacus texanus, parasitic on the dark blue crab Callinectes rathbunae (Crustacea: Cirripedia: Rhizocephala: Sacculinidae).
ABSTRACT Rhizocephalan parasites are dioecious organisms, in that one or several dwarf males are implanted into the external part of the female parasite soon after it emerges from the interior of the host animal. The structure of the female externa and its resident males is crucial for understanding both the reproductive biology and the taxonomy of these specialized parasites. We use scanning electron microscopy and histological methods to study the anatomy of juvenile and the mature externae of the rhizocephalan barnacle Loxothylacus texanus parasitizing the blue crab Callinectes rathbunae. We put emphasis on the implantation of males and the histology of the female reproductive organs. In the virgin externae, male cyprids attach around a cuticular hood covering the mantle aperture, which is partially blocked by a plug of cuticle so only trichogon larvae, not cyprids, can access the mantle cavity. This resembles the situation known from Sacculina carcini. The mature externa is characterized by a visceral mass that contains the ovary, paired colleteric glands, a single male receptacle, but paired receptacle ducts. The proximal attachment of the visceral mass is located at some distance from the basal stalk, as is characteristic for the genus Loxothylacus. The internal anatomy of the mature externa of L. texanus is in most features similar to that seen in other species of the Sacculinidae, which comprises the majority of rhizocephalan species. However, the single receptacle creates a situation where the two implanted males cannot be kept separate as in most other rhizocephalans, but pass through spermatogenesis in a common chamber. This may have unknown effects on the reproductive biology such as male-male competition.