Sperm economy and limitation in spiny lobsters
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Sperm limitation, when female fertilisation success is constrained by the supply of sperm, is generally perceived to be an uncommon feature of reproduction in species which directly transfer gametes during copulation. Male size, previous copulations, and the balance of expected reproductive return and future mating opportunity may, however, limit the amount of sperm males transfer to females. We used laboratory experiments where mate size could be manipulated and its consequences on spermatophore size and clutch size determined, to show that in two genera of spiny lobsters (Crustacea: Palinuridae) male reproductive output limits the size of clutches brooded by females. In Panulirus argus from the Florida Keys, we show that while male size affects spermatophore area, males also vary the amount of ejaculate positively with female size. Furthermore, the area of the spermatophore has a greater influence than female size on subsequent clutch weight. In Jasus edwardsii from New Zealand, female size, male size and mate order all affect clutch weight. In both species, clutches fertilised by small males in the laboratory are significantly smaller than clutches fertilised by large males. These results suggest that to ensure they receive sufficient sperm, females should either mate several times prior to oviposition, mate as early as possible in the reproductive season, or choose large, preferably unmated males as partners and thus compete with other females for preferred males. Sperm-limited female fecundity has the potential to limit the egg production of fished populations where large males are typically rare.
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