The morphologies of male genitalia often appear harmful or aggressive, as if they may inflict physical damage upon females during copulation. Such male genitalia are often thought to function in intra- and intersexual interactions during mating. In the carabid genus Carabus, division Spinulati, males possess a spine (spinula) on the intromittent organ, of which function is unknown. To reveal the function of the spinula, we studied the mating behavior and genital coupling of a Spinulati species, Carabus (Limnocarabus) clathratus. The males positioned the spinula along the inner wall of the vaginal opening throughout copulation. This placement created a small dent and subsequently a melanized patch (wound) on the vaginal wall, but the spinula rarely penetrated the vaginal wall. The spinula did not reach the innermost part of the vagina where the spermatophore is deposited. These results suggest that the spinula is not used for inflicting damage on female genitalia or manipulating spermatophores of rival males. During spermatophore formation, the male partially withdrew the aedeagus, and only the aedeagal tip and endophallus remained within the female. By placing the spinula against the vaginal wall, the male could hold the endophallus within the vaginal chamber in the unstable copulatory posture. Thus, our observations suggest that the spinula primarily functions as an “anchor” to maintain the coupling of the male and female genitalia and thereby ensure insemination.
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Vol. 29 • No. 7