Mate discrimination in Littorina littorea (L.) and L. saxatilis (Olivi) (Mollusca: Prosobranchia)

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The ability of males of Littorina littorea and L. saxatilis to discriminate between mates of different sex, species and size was examined. In partner choice experiments males of L. littorea had the possibility to initiate a copulation with either a female or a male. The males did not show a preference for either sex. There was therefore no evidence that they could determine the sex of a conspecific prior to copulation. The duration of intrasexual copulation was considerably shorter than for intersexual copulation, both in the field and in laboratory experiments. For the two species, intersexual copulations were far more frequent than intrasexual ones. This can partly be explained by the difference in copulation time.

Few interspecific conpulating pairs were found on the shore. This may reflect a low interspecific encounter rate rather than a mechanism of species recognition. On all of these occasions, however, the active male was of L. saxatilis. It is argued that selection against precopulatory species and sex recognition is a more likely explanation than an hypothesis that states that the required mutations for precopulatory mate identification has not yet occurred.

L. Littorea males copulated longer with large than with small females. Copulation time was short with parasitized females. Which are sterile or of low fecundity. The allocation of mating effort by males is discussed.