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Zoology Seminars

Evolutionary Aspects of Reproductive Biology and Morphology of Caecilian Amphibians (Gymnophiona)


Susanne Kühnel
Institut für Spezielle Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie, Universität Jena


TUESDAY 15th May, 12pm

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)



Among extant vertebrates, caecilians are still considered one of the least-explored groups. This small clade of modern limbless amphibians has striking anatomical novelties and exhibits variable life histories including diverse modes of parity and parental care. All caecilian amphibians practice internal fertilization with the aid of a unique copulatory organ: the everted male cloaca. Since the caecilian cloaca is ontogenetically a part of the digestive system it is not a separate structure exclusively dedicated for reproduction, like e.g. the squamate hemipenis. Nevertheless, the male cloaca reveals a complex morphology being equipped with longitudinal ridges, tuberosities or crests and displays a high diversity among species. Here I present my work on general and functional morphology aspects of the male and female caecilian cloaca based on specimens housed in natural history museum collections. The recent comparative evolutionary study includes species representing the major clades and reproductive modes. It aims to reveal the evolution of specific genital morphologies and if morphological patterns are linked to reproductive modes or other life history and morphological aspects in this fascinating group of tetrapods.


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