, Volume 193, Issue 1, pp 261–270

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

  • Mariann Saur


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 copulating 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.

Key words

mating behaviour copulation duration interspecific copulation intrasexual copulation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abele, L. G. & S. Gilchrist, 1977. Homosexual rape in acanthocephalan worms. Science 197: 81–83.Google Scholar
  2. Buckland-Nicks, J. A. & F. S. Chia, 1977. On the nurse cell and the spermatozeugma in Littorina sitkana. Cell and Tissue Research 179: 347–356.Google Scholar
  3. Cate, J. M., 1968. Mating behavior in Mitria idae Melvill, 1893. Veliger 10: 247–252.Google Scholar
  4. Connor, V. M., 1986. The use of mucous trails by intertidal limpets to enhance food resources. Biol. Bull. 171: 548–564.Google Scholar
  5. Croll, R. P., 1983. Gastropod chemoreception. Biol. Rev. 58: 293–319.Google Scholar
  6. Daly, M., 1978. The cost of mating. Am. Nat. 112: 771–774.Google Scholar
  7. Dewsbury, D. A., 1982. Ejaculate cost and male choice. Am. Nat. 119: 601–610.Google Scholar
  8. Dinter, I. & P. J. Manos, 1972. Evidence for a pheromone in the marine periwinkle Littorina littorea Linnaeus. Veliger 15: 45–47.Google Scholar
  9. Edwards, D. C., 1968. Reproduction in Oliviella biplicata. Veliger 10: 297–304.Google Scholar
  10. Fretter, V. & A. Graham, 1962. British prosobranch molluscs. Ray Society, London, 755 pp.Google Scholar
  11. Gibson, D. G., 1965. Mating behavior in Littorina planaxis Philippi (Gastropoda: Prosobranchiata). Veliger 7: 134–139.Google Scholar
  12. Gwynne, D. T., 1981. Sexual difference theory: mormon crickets show role reversal in mate choice. Science 213: 779–780.Google Scholar
  13. Hughes, R. N. & P. Answer, 1982. Growth, spawning and trematode infection of Littorina littorea (L.) from an exposed shore in north Wales. J. moll. Stud. 48: 321–330.Google Scholar
  14. Janson, K., 1985. Variation in the occurence of abnormal embryos in females of the intertidal gastropod Littorina saxatifs Olivi J. moll. Stud. 51: 64–68.Google Scholar
  15. Knowlton, N. & S. R. Greenwell, 1984. Male sperm competition avoidance mechanisms: The influence of female interests. In R. L. Smith (ed.), Sperm competition and the evolution of animal mating systems. Academic Press, Orlando (Florida): 62–83.Google Scholar
  16. Martel, A., D. H. Larrivée, K. R. Klein & J. H. Himmelman, 1986. Reproductive cycle and seasonal feeding activity of the neogastropod Buccinum undatum. Mar. Biol. 92: 211–221.Google Scholar
  17. Parker, G. A., 1978. Searching for mates. In J. R. Krebs & N. B. Davies (ed), Behavioural ecology an evolutionary approach. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford: 214–244.Google Scholar
  18. Peters, R. S., 1962. Function of the cephalic tentacles in Littorina Philippi (Gastropoda: Prosobranchiata). Veliger 7: 143–148.Google Scholar
  19. Raffaelli, D. G., 1977. Observations of the copulatory behavior of Littorina rudis Maton and Littorina nigrolineata Gray (Gastropoda: Prosobranchia). Veliger 20: 75–77.Google Scholar
  20. Rutowsky, R. L., 1982. Epigamic selection by males as evidenced by courtship partner preferences in the checkered white butterfly (Pieris protodice). Anim. Behav. 30: 108–112.Google Scholar
  21. Schutz, F., 1966. Homosexualität bei Tieren. Studium Generale 19: 273–285.Google Scholar
  22. Struhsaker, J. W., 1966. Breeding, spawning periodicity and early development in the Hawaiian Littorina: L. pintado (Wood), L. picta Philippi and L. scabra (Linné). Proc. malac. Soc. Lond. 37: 137–166.Google Scholar
  23. Svärd, L. & C. Wiklund, 1986. Different delivery strategies in first versus subsequent mating in the swallowtail butterfly Papilio machaon L. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 18: 325–330.Google Scholar
  24. Verell, P. A., 1982. Male newts prefer large females as mates. Anim. Behav. 30: 1254–1255.Google Scholar
  25. Wiklund, C. & J. Forsberg, 1985. Courtship and male discrimination between virgin and mated females in the orange tip butterfly Anthocharis cardamines. Anim. Behav. 34:328–332.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariann Saur
    • 1
  1. 1.Tjärnö Marine Biological LaboratoryStrömstadSweden

Personalised recommendations