Polar Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

An unusual hermaphrodite reproductive trait in the Antarctic brooding bivalve Lissarca miliaris (Philobryidae) from the Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean

  • Adam J. ReedEmail author
  • Sven Thatje
  • Katrin Linse
Original Paper


The Antarctic marine environment is extreme in its low temperatures and short periods of primary productivity. Invertebrates must therefore adapt to maximise reproductive output where low temperature and limited food slow larval development. Brooding is a common reproductive trait in Antarctic marine bivalves; larval development occurs within the mantle cavity, and larvae are released as fully developed young. Lissarca miliaris is a small, short-lived, shallow-water brooding bivalve of circum-Antarctic distribution and found most abundant in the sub-Antarctic Magellan Region and islands of the Scotia Arc. Here, an unusual hermaphrodite reproductive trait is described for L. miliaris from King George Island (62°14′S, 58°38′W) and Signy Island (60°42′S, 45°36′W), Antarctica, using histological and dissection techniques. Specimens demonstrate simultaneous and sequential hermaphrodite traits; male and female gonads develop simultaneously, but the production of oocytes is reduced while testes are ripe. Functional females are more abundant in specimens above 3 mm shell length, although male reproductive tissue persists and functional males are found in all size classes. The number of previtellogenic oocytes produced by far exceeds the number of oocytes extruded and brooded, which may indicate an ancestral link to a planktotrophic past. Hermaphroditism in L. miliaris maximises reproductive efficiency in a short-lived species, in which the female’s capacity to brood its young is limited, and demonstrates a specialised adaptation to a cold stenothermal and food-limited environment prevailing in the Southern Ocean.


Antarctica Invertebrate reproduction Cold adaption Hermaphrodite Early ontogeny 



Adam J. Reed was supported through an NERC PhD studentship. Thanks are due to captain and crew of R/V Polarstern for assistance at sea, Prof. Paul Tyler for helpful discussion and interpretation of the results and Huw Griffiths for help with maps. The authors would also like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for helping to improve this manuscript. This study is part of the British Antarctic Survey Polar Science for Planet Earth Programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre, SouthamptonUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.British Antarctic SurveyNatural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK

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