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Variable Mate-Guarding Time and Sperm Allocation by Male Snow Crabs (Chionoecetes opilio) in Response to Sexual Competition, and Their Impact on the Mating Success of Females

Amélie Rondeau and Bernard Sainte-Marie
Biological Bulletin
Vol. 201, No. 2 (Oct., 2001), pp. 204-217
DOI: 10.2307/1543335
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1543335
Page Count: 14
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Variable Mate-Guarding Time and Sperm Allocation by Male Snow Crabs (Chionoecetes opilio) in Response to Sexual Competition, and Their Impact on the Mating Success of Females
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Abstract

Two laboratory experiments investigated mate guarding and sperm allocation patterns of adult males with virgin females of the snow crab, Chionoecetes opilio, in relation to sex ratio. Although females outnumbered males in treatments, operational sex ratios were male-biased because females mature asynchronously and have a limited period of sexual attractiveness after their maturity molt. Males guarded females significantly longer as the sex ratio increased: the mean time per female was 2.9 d in a 2 ♂:20 ♀ treatment compared to 5.6 d in a 6 ♂:20 ♀ treatment. Female injury and mortality scaled positively to sex ratio. Males that guarded for the greatest number of days were significantly larger, and at experiment's end had significantly smaller vasa deferentia, suggesting greater sperm expense, than males that guarded for fewer days. In both experiments, the spermathecal load (SL)-that is, the quantity of ejaculate stored in a female's spermatheca-was independent of molt date, except in the most female-biased treatment, where it was negatively related. The SL increased as the sex ratio increased, mainly because females accumulated more ejaculates. However, similarly sized males had smaller vasa deferentia and passed smaller ejaculates, such that, at a given sex ratio, the mean SL was 55% less in one experiment than in the other. Some females extruded clutches with few or no fertilized eggs, and their median SL (3-4 mg) was one order of magnitude smaller than that of females with well-fertilized clutches (31-50 mg), indicating sperm limitation. Males economized sperm: all females irrespective of sex ratio were inseminated, but to a varying extent submaximally; each ejaculate represented less than 2.5% of male sperm reserves; and no male was fully exhausted of sperm. Sperm economy is predicted by sperm competition theory for species like snow crab in which polyandry exists, mechanisms of last-male sperm precedence are effective, and the probability that one male fertilizes a female's lifetime production of eggs is small.

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