Mating behavior of female rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus (Decapoda: Caridea)—indication for convenience polyandry and cryptic female choice


While studies on a wide diversity of organisms have demonstrated the importance of female behavior during matings, in crustacean studies, a strong bias towards male mating behavior prevails. Reproductively mature rock shrimp (Rhynchocinetes typus) exist as several ontogenetic stages that differ in their morphological and physiological capacities. In natural populations, the majority of males are in early ontogenetic stages (termed typus), many are in intermediate stages (intermedius), and few are in the terminal molt stage (robustus). Dominant robustus males, which have already demonstrated their biological fitness by surviving to this stage, have previously been shown to have a higher potential than subordinate typus males to defend receptive females against other males, and fertilize the entire clutch of a female. While females should thus show a preference for robustus males, they nevertheless frequently receive sperm from typus males. These observations suggested that females might have mechanisms to discriminate against sperm from subordinate males. In laboratory experiments, we observed that females avoided being seized by typus males for longer time periods in the absence of robustus males than in their presence. Following seizure, females that were initially held by typus males, required more time to initiate spawning than those held by robustus males. Many typus males transferred spermatophores to females before these started to spawn while robustus males waited until females began to spawn before they transferred spermatophores. Females manipulated spermatophores received from typus males for long time periods (minutes), but not those they received from robustus males. By accepting sperm from subordinate typus males, females may avoid further harassment (convenience polyandry), but they subsequently may discriminate against these subordinate males by delaying spawning and removing their sperm. These observations suggest that female behavior influences the outcome of matings, favoring fertilization of eggs by sperm from dominant males. Convenience polyandry and cryptic female choice may be common in other crustaceans as well.

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We thank our rock shrimp gang, A. Baeza, C. Correa, E. Díaz and T. van Son, who contributed in many different ways to this study. We are most grateful to J. Christy, C. Correa and three anonymous referees for many helpful comments on the manuscript, and to R. Hiriart for his help with the editing of the video material. We thank M. Leon for the drawings. The experiments comply with the current laws of the Republic of Chile.

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Communicated by T. Czeschlik

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Thiel, M., Hinojosa, I.A. Mating behavior of female rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus (Decapoda: Caridea)—indication for convenience polyandry and cryptic female choice. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 55, 113–121 (2003) doi:10.1007/s00265-003-0677-1

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  • Shrimp
  • Multiple mating
  • Female choice
  • Sperm removal
  • Male harassment