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Do sex-changing male snails use mate choice to get a jump on their “size advantage”?
Ambrogio, O.V.; Pechenik, J.A. (2009). Do sex-changing male snails use mate choice to get a jump on their “size advantage”? Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 156(10): 2173-2180.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Ambrogio, O.V.
  • Pechenik, J.A.

    Individuals of species that change sex from male to female may gain a “size advantage” from that sex change; that is, as males become larger, they become female, thus increasing their fecundity with their size. However, males could also gain an early and different reproductive size advantage by choosing large females as mates. While male preference for large females has been observed in many dioecious species, we know little about male size preference in sex-changing species. In choice experiments, we examined whether males of two congeneric species of marine sex-changing snails, Crepidula fornicata and C. convexa, chose large females over small ones as partners. We also used choice tests to see whether males of C. fornicata, a species whose members form long-term, multi-animal stacks, would choose two females in a stack over a single female. Surprisingly, males of neither species showed a preference for large females, in spite of the documented fecundity advantage associated with large female-size. Males of C. fornicata chose slightly, but not significantly, more single females than stacks, suggesting that neither number nor size drives mate choice in these animals. Key factors that may influence this lack of size preference include long association time, the likelihood of sperm competition, and the cost of extended mate search; it may also be that sex-change itself, the very factor that creates female-biased sexual size dimorphism in these species, prevents size preference, as males may gain sufficient reproductive advantage from eventually becoming large females themselves to offset any benefit of choosing large females.

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