New paper in Journal of Morphology


Sexually dimorphic characters of the ultimate legs in lithobiid centipedes (Myriapoda, Chilopoda, Lithobiomorpha): morphology and implications for reproductive behaviour.

Roithmair Z, Edgecombe GD, Wanninger A & Akkari N. 2023
J. Morphol.. Accepted Author Manuscript. . Link. Published online 22 December 2022


Many species of lithobiomorph centipedes present a pronounced sexual dimorphism reflected in remarkable structural modifications on the ultimate legs of males. Most records of these male secondary sexual characters addressed taxonomy, helping to identify and characterize species or diagnose genera, but information on their diversity, detailed morphology and possible function(s) is scarce. In this study, nine species of the two lithobiid genera Lithobius Leach, 1814 and Eupolybothrus Verhoeff, 1907 were investigated, using light and scanning electron microscopy to document the detailed morphology of secondary sexual characters of male ultimate legs. Secondary sexual characters affecting the cuticle of the ultimate legs are described in detail and found to often be associated with sensilla, interpreted here as chemo- and mechanoreceptors, and with clusters of pores, a hitherto undescribed pore-distribution for this group. The tibial nodule of the species Lithobius nodulipes Latzel, 1880, was additionally examined with histological semi-thin sections. These results revealed that the clustered pores are connected to glandular tissue, and are, based on their morphology, interpreted as openings of flexo-canal epidermal glands. The presence of various sensory and glandular structures associated with sexual dimorphism indicates a likely role during courtship and mating. The closely related species examined in this research show comparable dimorphic structures, which are otherwise species-specific. Morphological observations on secondary sexual structures inform on reproductive biology in groups like lithobiomorphs for which there are limited behavioural data.