Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 203, Issue 3, pp 233–243 | Cite as

Hard-shell mating in Neohelice granulata: the role of ecdysone in female receptivity and mate attraction

  • María P. Sal MoyanoEmail author
  • Tomás Luppi
  • Daniel A. Medesani
  • Colin L. McLay
  • Enrique M. Rodríguez
Original Paper


Most brachyuran females become receptive during the intermolt period, a condition considered “derived”. However, as far as we know, studies testing the existence and function of pheromones in decapods are based on species which have mating linked to molting, a condition considered as “ancestral”. For the first time, we studied some physiological and morphological processes involved in Neohelice granulata intermolt female crabs becoming receptive and potentially attracting males. We found that receptive females have mobile vulvae opercula due to a softening process of the cuticle hinge which showed lower calcium levels compared to the hinge of unreceptive females. Local softening of the hinge was stimulated by a low concentration of ecdysone during the intermolt period. A putative pheromone liberated by receptive females to attract males is presumed to be released through the mobile vulvae and not through the urine.


Ecdysteroids Hard-shell mating Cuticle softening Vulvae Pheromones 



We wish to thank to Martin Lorusso for his help in the laboratory experiments.We gratefully acknowledge the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript. 

Compliance with ethical standards


Financial support was given by Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica: PICTs 1317 and 0763. Grants from both Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (PIPI2015, code 11220150100100CO) and the University of Buenos Aires (UBACYT 2016 scientific program, code 20020150100060BA) have also contributed to the current study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing or financial interests.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies on human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata (UNMdP)Mar del PlataArgentina
  2. 2.Department of Biodiversity and Experimental BiologyFCEN University of Buenos Aires, Institute of Biodiversity, Experimental and Applied Biology (IBBEA), CONICET-UBA. Ciudad Universitaria, Pab. IIBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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