The succession in time and space of specific germ cell associations, denoted as spermatogenic stages, is a typical feature of mammalian spermatogenesis. The arrangement of these stages is either single stage (one spermatogenic stage per tubular cross-section) or multistage (more than one spermatogenic stage per tubular cross-section). It has been proposed that the single-stage versus multistage arrangement is related to spermatogenic efficiency and that the multistage arrangement is typical for hominids. In the present work, the arrangement of spermatogenic stages and the spermatogenic efficiency of 17 primate species, comprising Strepsirrhini (Prosimians: Lemuriformes, Lorisiformes), Platyrrhini (New World primates), Catarrhini (Old World primates), and Hominoidea (great apes and humans), were analyzed comparatively by quantitative histological and flow cytometric means. We found a predominant single-stage tubular organization in the Strepsirrhini, indicating that the single-stage form represents the ancestral state. The highest degree of multistage complexity was found in Hominoidea (except orangutan) and in Platyrrhini, but not in Catarrhini. Hence, no direct relationship between single-stage/multistage tubular topography and phylogeny could be established across primates. In fact, the tubule arrangement seen in Platyrrhini and Catarrhini primates is the reverse of what might be expected from phylogeny. Interestingly, spermatogenic efficiency was similar in all species. We found no correlation between single-stage/multistage arrangement and spermatogenic efficiency or mating system. We speculate that the presence of a single-stage/multistage organization might simply reflect germ cell clonal size. Our findings further indicate that sperm competition in primates is not reflected at the level of testicular function.
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