Marine Biology

, Volume 86, Issue 3, pp 247-252

First online:

Mating system of the intertidal copepod Tigriopus californicus

  • R. S. BurtonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Pennsylvania

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Male Tigriopus californicus clasp immature females (copepodid stages II–V) for a period of up to a week prior to the female's terminal molt; upon maturation (stage VI) the female is inseminated and released. While females can mate anytime after their terminal molt, experiments using electrophoretically-detected genetic markers indicate that each mates only once in her lifetime. No evidence of sperm displacement was observed. Hence, male mating behavior can be interpreted as pre-copulatory mate guarding, a strategy employed to assure that a potential mate has not been previously inseminated. Males minimize the time investment required to insemiate a single female successfully by preferentially choosing to clasp more developmentally-advanced females; males clasped to stage III females will release them in order to clasp stage V females if the latter are present. Since males are capable of multiple mating, under most conditions of population sex ratio, this mating system results in low availability of unclasped, developmentally-advanced females; consequently, males must clasp successively younger (i.e. developmentally less-advanced) females in order to obtain a successful insemination.