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Gender-role alternation in the simultaneously hermaphroditic freshwater snail Physa acuta : not with the same partner

Facon B., Ravigné V., Goudet J.. 2008. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 62 (5) : p. 713-720.

In simultaneous hermaphrodites, gender conflicts that arise from two potential mates sharing the same gender preference may be solved through conditional reciprocity (or gamete trading). Conditional reciprocity had initially been considered widespread, but recent studies suggest that its real occurrence may have been overestimated, possibly because most mating observations have been performed on isolated pairs of individuals. Some resulting patterns (e.g., non-random alternation of sexual roles) were indeed compatible with conditional reciprocity but could also have stemmed from the two partners independently executing their own mating strategy and being experimentally enforced to do so with the same partner. Non-random alternation of gender roles was recently documented in the simultaneously hermaphroditic freshwater snail Physa acuta. To distinguish between conditional and unconditional gender alternations, we observed copulations of individually marked snails reared at three contrasted densities. We showed that density affected the overall frequency of copulations during the first 2 days of the experiment with high-density boxes showing more copulations than low density boxes, but it did not affect gender alternation patterns. A change in gender role was observed more often than expected by chance over two successive copulations by the same individual, confirming previous studies. However, gender switches did not preferentially occur with the same partner. We conclude that gender alternation is not due to conditional reciprocity in P. acuta. It may rather stem from each individual having a preference for gender alternation. We finally discuss the mechanisms and the potential extent of this unconditional reciprocity. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : gastropoda; comportement sexuel; hermaphrodisme; physa acuta; physella

Thématique : Physiologie animale : reproduction; Ecologie animale

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