Gametogenesis and Auxospore Development in Actinocyclus (Bacillariophyta)
cGametogenesis and auxospore development have been studied in detail in surprisingly few centric diatoms. We studied the development of sperm, eggs and auxospores in Actinocyclus sp., a radially symmetrical freshwater diatom collected from Japan, using LM and electron microscopy of living cultures and thin sections. Actinocyclus represents a deep branch of the ‘radial centric’ diatoms and should therefore contribute useful insights into the evolution of sexual reproduction in diatoms. Spermatogenesis was examined by LM and SEM and involved the formation of two spermatogonia (sperm mother-cells) in each spermatogonangium through an equal mitotic division. The spermatogonia produced a reduced ‘lid’ valve, resembling a large flat scale with irregular radial thickenings. Sperm formation was merogenous, producing four sperm per spermatogonium, which were released by dehiscence of the ‘lid’ valve. The sperm were spindle-shaped with numerous surface globules and, as usual for diatoms, the single anterior flagellum bore mastigonemes. One egg cell was produced per oogonium. Immature eggs produced a thin layer of circular silica scales before fertilization, while the eggs were still contained within the oogonium. Sperm were attracted in large numbers to each egg and were apparently able to contact the egg surface via a gap formed between the long hypotheca and shorter epitheca of the oogonium and a small underlying hole in the scale-case. Auxospores expanded isodiametrically and many new scales were added to its envelope during expansion. Finally, new slightly-domed initial valves were produced at right angles to the oogonium axis, after a strong contraction of the cell away from the auxospore wall. At different stages, Golgi bodies were associated with chloroplasts or mitochondria, contrasting with the constancy of Golgi–ER–mitochondrion (G-ER-M) units in some other centric diatoms, which has been suggested to have phylogenetic significance. Electron-dense bodies in the vacuole of Actinocyclus are probably acidocalcisomes containing polyphosphate.