, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 761-773
Date: 02 Jun 2007

Hang on or run? Copepod mating versus predation risk in contrasting environments

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Mating durations of copepods were found to differ significantly between fishless high-altitude waters and lowland lakes containing fish. In lowland species the whole mating process was completed within a few minutes, but it averaged over an hour in high-altitude species. Alpine copepods showed a prolonged post-copulatory association between mates, during which the male clasped the female for an extended period after spermatophore transfer, while in lowland species males abandoned their partner immediately after copulation. Prolonged associations also occurred after transfer of spermatophores to heterospecific females with shorter conspecific mating duration, suggesting that male interests largely dictate the time spent in tandem. The differences observed may be adaptations to environments with different predation pressure, as pairs in tandem are more conspicuous and less reactive than single animals. We argue that differences in mating behavior and mating duration evolved under sexual versus natural selection, reflecting trade-offs between enhancement of fertilization success and reduction of vulnerability to visual predation. In fishless mountain lakes with high intrasexual competition, guarding males can reduce the risk of spermatophore displacement or the risk that the female will accept sperm from rival males without increased risk of being eaten, thereby maximizing paternity. Populations from fishless alpine lakes further differed from lowland species by exhibiting higher female/male size dimorphism and more intense pigmentation. While these traits vary between populations according to predation pressure, mating duration appears to be more species-specific.

Communicated by Ulrich Sommer.