The zona pellucida of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus): its morphogenesis and thickness
Jamie A. Chapman,1 Christopher M. Leigh,2 and William G. Breed2
1Discipline of Anatomy and Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Australia
2Discipline of Anatomical Sciences, School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Australia
In this study the ultrastructural organization of the koala oocyte and the thickness of the surrounding extracellular coat, the zona pellucida, has been determined to ascertain whether there is coevolution of the morphology of the female gamete with that of the highly divergent male gamete that is found in this marsupial species. Ovaries from several adult koalas were obtained and prepared for transmission electron microscopy. Oocytes in large tertiary follicles were somewhat smaller than those of most other marsupials, although their ultrastructural organization appeared similar and included many yolk vesicles. The zona pellucida surrounding the oocytes in tertiary follicles was approximately 8 µm thick and thus is of similar thickness to that of some eutherian mammals but at least twice as thick as that of most marsupial species so far studied. The results indicate that the koala oocyte is unusually small for a marsupial species whereas the zona pellucida is, by contrast, much thicker. How this relates to sperm–egg interaction at the time of fertilization has yet to be determined.