Extreme secondary sexual dimorphism in the genus Florarctus (Heterotardigrada: Halechiniscidae)

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Secondary sexual dimorphism in florarctin tardigrades is a well-known phenomenon. Males are usually smaller than females, and primary clavae are relatively longer in the former. A new species Florarctus bellahelenae, collected from subtidal coralline sand just behind the reef fringe of Long Island, Chesterfield Reefs (Pacific Ocean), exhibits extreme secondary dimorphism. Males have developed primary clavae that are much thicker and three times longer than those present in females. Furthermore, the male primary clavae have an accordion-like outer structure, whereas primary clavae are smooth in females. Other species of Florarctus Delamare-Deboutteville & Renaud-Mornant, 1965 inhabiting the Pacific Ocean were investigated. Males are typically smaller than females, but males of Florarctus heimi Delamare-Deboutteville & Renaud-Mornant, 1965 and females of Florarctus cervinus Renaud-Mornant, 1987 have never been recorded. The Renaud-Mornant collection was re-examined, and type series were analysed. Florarctus heimi and F. cervinus were always found together in the coralline sand of Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef). The animals were kept alive and surveyed in the laboratory of the Queensland Museum. All studied individuals of the larger F. heimi (up to ca. 400 mu m) were females, and all adults of the smaller F. cervinus (about 170 mu m) were males. Males of F. cervinus were observed mating with females of F. heimi. Following those morphological and behavioural lines of evidence, we propose that F. cervinus is a junior synonym of F. heimi. Based on the discovery of dimorphism in F. bellahelenae sp. nov. and the strong sex-related morphological disparities in F. heimi, we suggest that extreme secondary dimorphism may be present in other florarctin arthrotardigrades.

TidsskriftMarine Biodiversity
Udgave nummer3
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - 2021

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