Chemical and visual communication during mate searching in rock shrimp

Díaz, E.R.; Thiel, M.

Biological Bulletin 206(3): 134-143

2004


ISSN/ISBN: 0006-3185
PMID: 15198939
DOI: 10.2307/1543637
Accession: 011852886

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Abstract
Mate searching in crustaceans depends on different communicational cues, of which chemical and visual cues are most important. Herein we examined the role of chemical and visual communication during mate searching and assessment in the rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus. Adult male rock shrimp experience major ontogenetic changes. The terminal molt stages (named "robustus") are dominant and capable of monopolizing females during the mating process. Previous studies had shown that most females preferably mate with robustus males, but how these dominant males and receptive females find each other is uncertain, and is the question we examined herein. In a Y-maze designed to test for the importance of waterborne chemical cues, we observed that females approached the robustus male significantly more often than the typus male. Robustus males, however, were unable to locate receptive females via chemical signals. Using an experimental set-up that allowed testing for the importance of visual cues, we demonstrated that receptive females do not use visual cues to select robustus males, but robustus males use visual cues to find receptive females. Visual cues used by the robustus males were the tumults created by agitated aggregations of subordinate typus males around the receptive females. These results indicate a strong link between sexual communication and the mating system of rock shrimp in which dominant males monopolize receptive females. We found that females and males use different (sex-specific) communicational cues during mate searching and assessment, and that the sexual communication of rock shrimp is similar to that of the American lobster, where females are first attracted to the dominant males by chemical cues emitted by these males. A brief comparison between these two species shows that female behaviors during sexual communication contribute strongly to the outcome of mate searching and assessment.