Gametogenesis has been studied in four cirratulid polychaetes: Caulleriella caput-esocis, Tharyx marioni, Cirriformia tentaculata and Cirratulus cirratus.
In all four species, sperm development follows a similar course of events, with the sperm cells being grouped in spheres and then platelets before developing tails to give rosettes which finally disintegrate to release the active spermatozoa. Except in Cirratulus, there is a well-defined annual cycle in the development of sperm.
Oogenesis in Caulleriella and Cirriformia is similar in that the growth curve of the oocytes is roughly sigmoid. In Tharyx the release of the oocytes to the coelom is delayed and discrete ovaries are formed, only the later stages of oocyte growth taking place within the coelom. In contrast to the above three species, oogenesis in Cirratulus does not show an annual cycle.
Maturation of the oocytes within the coelom prior to shedding has been established in Tharyx, Cirratulus and Cirriformia. In the former two species meiosis proceeds as far as the metaphase I stage and in the latter to the anaphase I stage, before the oocytes are released. Fertilizations were achieved only with oocytes which had matured in all three species. In the fourth species, Caulleriella, no fertile oocytes were discovered.
The diameters of the mature oocytes and the main spawning seasons of the four species at Plymouth are as follows: Caulleriella, about 110 μ (August to October); Tharyx, 200– 220 μ (late October to early November); Cirriformia, about 117 μ (late June to early July); Cirratulus, 135–150 μ (throughout the year).