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Social Control of Sex Change in the Bluehead Wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum (Pisces: Labridae)

Robert R. Warner and Stephen E. Swearer
Biological Bulletin
Vol. 181, No. 2 (Oct., 1991), pp. 199-204
DOI: 10.2307/1542090
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1542090
Page Count: 6
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Social Control of Sex Change in the Bluehead Wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum (Pisces: Labridae)
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Abstract

While the bluehead wrasse has long been used as a test species in sex allocation theory, there is no published evidence that sex change in this species is socially controlled. Here we show that removal of large terminal color phase (TP) males from local populations leads to sex and color change in the largest initial color phase (IP) females. In contrast, no sex changes occurred in control populations in which the TP males were handled but replaced, and in which only the IP males were removed. The response to removals was quite precise, resulting in a nearly one-to-one replacement of TP males. Large individuals that had been seen spawning as females on the day prior to the manipulation, initiated male behaviors within minutes of the removal of the TP males and spawned in the male role the same day. Color changes were noted within a day and were distinct within four days. Sex change was verified by histological examination of the gonads of the changing individuals. All had functional testes, and all showed evidence of recent transition from the ovarian condition. Mature sperm can be produced in as little as eight days after the initiation of sex change.

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