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Observation and Experiments on Sex-Change in the European Oyster (O. edulis.): Part I. The Change from Female to Male

  • J. H. Orton (a1)


The gonads of 1,121 oysters have been examined at various periods from a few hours to twelve months after the individuals had spawned as females; the material for the research was obtained by collection and experiment. In 702 individuals taken with young in the mantle cavity the gonad shows a progressive development of maleness in its primary sexual characters; within a mean period of 2¼ hours after spawning eggs, the gonad was found in 50 per cent of cases with only young spermmasses developing, followed at later periods by a progressive ripening of the sperm-masses, until in individuals carrying shelled and black-coloured larvae 77 per cent contained abundant ripe sperm-masses as well as advanced developing sperm-masses.

In 444 individuals examined at various periods after extruding their larvæ, the development of sperm was found to continue for about a month after egg-spawning, and to abate in about the second month. In from 2 to 3 months after egg-spawning sperm-development is completed and the male phase begins to wane, and a small percentage of individuals may become female or actively female-functioning again. In 12 months after the last egg-spawning a significant number of individuals become once more functional females.

The varieties of mixed sexes found in O. edulis are denned and their frequencies shown by an analysis of samples—from two widely separated beds—examined at the beginning of the breeding season in 1926. Experiments on the rate of growth of sperm-masses and on determining of age at different stages of development in embryos and larvæ are given.



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