Multiflagellate sperm represent a rare defect in mammals and also in the emu where an incidence of only 1% multiflagellate
sperm was recorded in semen samples from 15 birds. Biflagellate sperm were the most frequent form of the defect observed, but
3- to 5-tailed sperm were also noted. An association was apparent between multiple tails and macrocephalic sperm, which
accounted for 0.6% of multiflagellate sperm. Structural features of the defect were generally similar to those seen in mammals.
The duplicated tails shared a single midpiece, which housed supernumerary centriolar complexes, each surrounded by a
mitochondrial sheath. A single row of mitochondria separated adjacent centriolar complexes. Elements of the connecting piece
(segmented columns, capitellum) appeared normal. The nuclear base appeared flat, staggered, or scalloped depending on the
number and depth of additional implantation fossae. Multiflagellate emu sperm of normal head dimensions displayed a widened
nuclear base (in the form of an attenuated peripheral nuclear extension) to accommodate the attachment of the additional centriolar
complexes. Defective mammalian sperm do not show this modification of the nuclear base as the inherently wider sperm head is
able to accommodate the supernumerary centrioles. Although often spiraled around each other, the duplicated principal pieces of
the tail were generally separated and free. However, in some cells the proximal parts were collectively bound within the
plasmalemma. Multiflagellate sperm appear to have a dual origin with some defective cells originating from incomplete
cytokinesis and others as a result of abnormal centriolar duplication.