Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 58–68 | Cite as

Size-dependent mating and gender choice in a simultaneous hermaphrodite, Bulla gouldiana

  • Alexis Chaine
  • Lisa AngeloniEmail author
Original Article


Simultaneous hermaphrodites are predicted to optimally divide resources between male and female function, which can result in both size-dependent mating behaviors and conflict between potential mates. Predicted strategies include size-assortative mating, conditional exchange of gametes, and mating patterns where relative size affects investment in each sexual role. This study investigated the effect of body size on the mating strategies of a hermaphroditic opisthobranch, Bulla gouldiana. Although individuals were spatially aggregated in the field with high levels of movement and size variation, there was little evidence for predictions. Laboratory experiments, however, revealed complicated effects of mass on the probability and duration of mating, as well as gender choice. Pairs were more likely to mate if they included at least one large animal, with the larger animal typically inseminating the smaller. When both individuals were large, they were more likely to each mate in both sexual roles by switching roles once. Although B. gouldiana did not usually alternate between sexual roles multiple times within mating events, paired individuals behaved similarly (neither or both mating as sperm donors) more often than expected by chance. This suggests some level of reciprocity, which is unlikely to be conditional given rates of unilateral mating. When the larger member of the mating pair inseminated the smaller, the duration of insemination increased with the size of the smaller sperm recipient. Copulations lasted longer in pairs that switched sexual roles than in those that did not switch roles. This study suggests that variation in body size can lead to size-dependent mating patterns, but only some of the patterns in B. gouldiana support theoretical predictions. We review other studies that have addressed similar issues, providing inconsistent mating patterns in sperm-storing hermaphrodites.


Hermaphroditic strategies Sexual role Body size Sex allocation Opisthobranch mollusc 



We are grateful to Jack Bradbury for guidance throughout the study. For help in the field and lab we thank Bryan Glogowski, Elizabeth Kitazono, Peter Marcovici, Chris Nagy, Dinh Nguyen, Kim Owens, Amy Ritter and Alex Trujillo. Isabelle Kay allowed access to the Scripps Coastal Reserve. Colette St. Mary, Bruce Lyon and three anonymous reviewers provided valuable suggestions for improving the manuscript. Lisa Angeloni was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DBI-0310305 during preparation of the manuscript. The experiments in this study comply with the current laws of the USA


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, Division of BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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