Marine Biology

, Volume 134, Issue 4, pp 719–728 | Cite as

Behavioral aspects of sperm competition in cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis (Sepioidea: Cephalopoda)

  • R. T. Hanlon
  • S. A. Ament
  • H. Gabr
Article

Abstract

Sexual selection studies in cephalopods indicate that sperm competition is a central feature of their mating systems, yet this has not been studied experimentally in any detail. In 1998 we staged 20 matings of the cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis L., in the laboratory. Males rapidly initiated mating in the “head-to-head” position, with no apparent courtship. Mating lasted an average of 10 min (range 7 to 14 min). For the first 6 min (on average 63% of the mating duration), the male flushed strong jets of water directly at the female's buccal membrane, which sometimes resulted in the expulsion of parts of spermatangia placed there in recent matings. Then, in a single discrete movement that lasted an average of only 14 s, the male's modified fourth left arm – the hectocotylus – wrapped around a single large bundle of spermatophores (ca. 150 to 300) and transferred them to the female's buccal membrane. For the remainder of the mating (average 3 min, range 1.5 to 5.0 min), the hectocotylus repeatedly broke the spermatophores open, and manipulated them, so that sperm were released and many spermatangia were attached along the ventral buccal membrane, near the paired seminal receptacles. Approximately 140 spermatangia were attached in rows 3 to 5 deep around the ventral buccal membrane in a single mating; the rest were usually discarded during mating. Histology revealed that each of the seminal receptacles consists of a series of sperm storage bulbs connected by a central duct, which leads to a single pore at the surface of the buccal membrane. Baseline data on sperm motility were obtained, but the mechanism by which sperm enter the seminal receptacle remains unknown. Females seemed to initiate termination of mating, then males guarded their mates temporarily. These results, combined with other recent laboratory experiments, provide evidence that sperm competition may be a major feature of the mating system of S. officinalis.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. T. Hanlon
    • 1
  • S. A. Ament
    • 1
  • H. Gabr
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA e-mail: rhanlon@mbl.edu; Fax: +1-508-2897900US

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