, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 359-367

Hermaphrodite sex role preferences: the role of partner body size, mating history and female fitness in the sea slug Chelidonura sandrana

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Abstract

Costs and benefits associated with matings and the effects of mating frequency on fitness commonly differ between the sexes. As a result, outcrossing simultaneous hermaphrodites may prefer to copulate in the more rewarding sex role, generating conflicts over sperm donation and sperm receipt between mates. Because recent sex role preference models remain controversial, we contrast here some of their assumptions and predictions in the sea slug Chelidonura sandrana. For this hermaphrodite with sperm storage and internal fertilisation, risk-averse models assume that fitness pay-offs are constantly higher in the female than in the male function in any single mating. Moreover, excluding mutual partner assessment, these models predict male mating behaviour to be independent of receiver traits. The competing gender ratio hypothesis assumes that relative fitness pay-offs, and thus the preferred mating roles, vary and may reverse between matings and predicts that ejaculation strategies co-vary with receiver quality. We found that field mating rates of C. sandrana substantially exceeded what is required to maintain female fertility and fecundity, indicating large variation in direct female benefits between matings. We further demonstrate that male copulation duration adaptively increased with partner body size (i.e. fecundity) but decreased with recent partner promiscuity. These findings are compatible with the gender ratio hypothesis but contradict risk-averse models.

Communicated by P. Moore