Ultrastructure of the reproductive system of the black swamp snake (Seminatrix pygaea): Part II. Annual oviducal cycle

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Journal of Morphology

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This article is the first ultrastructural study on the annual oviducal cycle in a snake. The ultrastructure of the oviduct was studied in 21 females of the viviparous natricine snake Seminatrix pygaea. Specimens were collected and sacrificed in March, May, June, July, and October from one locale in South Carolina during 1998–1999. The sample included individuals: 1) in an inactive reproductive condition, 2) mated but prior to ovulation, and 3) from early and late periods of gravidity. The oviduct possesses four distinct regions from cranial to caudal: the anterior infundibulum, the posterior infundibulum containing sperm storage tubules (SSTs), the uterus, and the vagina. The epithelium is simple throughout the oviduct and invaginations of the lining form tubular glands in all regions except the anterior infundibulum and the posterior vagina. The tubular glands are not alveolar, as reported in some other snakes, and simply represent a continuation of the oviducal lining with no additional specializations. The anterior infundibulum and vagina show the least amount of variation in relation to season or reproductive condition. In these regions, the epithelium is irregular, varying from squamous to columnar, and cells with elongate cilia alternate with secretory cells. The secretory product of the infundibulum consists largely of lipids, whereas a glycoprotein predominates in the vagina; however, both products are found in these regions and elsewhere in the oviduct. In the SST area and the anterior vagina, tubular glands are compound as well as simple. The epithelium of the SST is most active after mating, and glycoprotein vacuoles and lipid droplets are equally abundant. When present, sperm form tangled masses in the oviducal lumen and glands of the SST area. The glands of the uterus are always simple. During sperm migration, a carrier matrix composed of sloughed epithelial cells, a glycoprotein colloid, lipids, and membranous structures surround sperm in the posterior uterus. During gravidity, tubular glands, cilia, and secretory products diminish with increasing development of the fetus, and numerous capillaries abut the basal lamina of the attenuated epithelial lining of the uterus.


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