Baeza, J.A. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2007) 61: 365. doi:10.1007/s00265-006-0265-2
Sex allocation theory predicts phenotypic adjustments by individuals in their investments into the male and female reproductive function in response to environmental conditions. I tested for phenotypically plastic shifts in sex allocation in a protandric simultaneous hermaphrodite, in which individuals mature and reproduce as males first, and later in life, as simultaneous hermaphrodites. I predicted that initially maturing males should adjust the timing of maturation as hermaphrodites according to male mating opportunities mediated by population size of hermaphrodites. In a first experiment, males maintained with only one hermaphrodite reduced the time they spent as males in comparison to males maintained with no conspecifics, presumably because total reproductive output is maximized by two individuals being simultaneous hermaphrodites when the mating system is a pair. Conversely, males maintained in groups with two or more hermaphrodites increased the time they spent as males in comparison to single males. This delay in maturation was not an effect of resource depletion with increasing shrimp density because the growth rate of males did not differ among most of the experimental treatments. One hypothesis to explain this social mediation of sex allocation is that the smaller males are more successful in mating as males than are the larger hermaphrodites: it will pay reproductively for males to delay maturation as hermaphrodites in large but not in small groups. In agreement with this notion, a second experiment demonstrated that smaller males were four times more successful than were larger hermaphrodites in inseminating shrimps reproducing as females. The informative cue that males may use to perceive different group sizes deserves further attention.
Sex allocationPhenotypic plasticitySocial mediationHermaphrodite