Variability of the frequency of male neoteny in Ostrea puelchana (Mollusca: Bivalvia)
Ostrea puelchana (D'Orbigny), a larviparous oyster from the Atlantic coast of South America, comprises two types of individuals: (1) adults which live for several years and become sexually developed after one year, these show a rhythmic successive hermaphroditism with male, hermaphroditic and female phases; (2) neotenic individuals settled on the adults, which live for only about one year and function exclusively as males. Adult oysters were collected in February 1982 from a natural bed in the San Matias Gulf, Argentina, and were transferred to two sites 200 km to the south of their original habitat, where they were maintained under culture conditions. At the beginning of the study, 17% of adult oysters were observed bearing neotenic individuals. After two years, the number of adults in the female phase had decreased, and neotenic individuals had entirely disappeared. The presence of female-phase adults would seem to be necessary for the existence of neotenic males. Further analysis of the results revealed high adult density to be directly associated with greatly decreased numbers of adults in the female phase; this may play a role in the decrease of neotenic individuals.