Main content area

Distance Communication of Sexual Status in the Crayfish Orconectes quinebaugensis: Female Sexual History Mediates Male and Female Behavior

Durgin, William S., Martin, Kelly E., Watkins, Heather R., Mathews, Lauren M.
Journal of chemical ecology 2008 v.34 no.6 pp. 702-707
crayfish, eggs, males, pheromones, sperm competition, spermatozoa, spring, virgin females
Chemical communication plays an important role in mediating social interactions of many taxa, particularly arthropods. Many individuals communicate information about their reproductive status to potential mates through distance and/or contact pheromones, an ability that may be advantageous to both signalers and receivers. In this paper, we describe tests of two hypotheses on the role of distance communication in the reproductive behaviors of crayfish (Orconectes quinebaugensis). First, we hypothesized that male crayfish would show stronger attraction towards virgin females (females with no viable sperm) than towards non-virgin females because of the fitness costs (to males) associated with sperm competition. Second, we hypothesized that female crayfish should show differential responses to mature male signals depending on their own sexual history: virgin females should be more strongly attracted to male signals than should non-virgin females because they must mate at least once to be able to fertilize eggs in the spring. Data from two Y-maze experiments yielded support for both hypotheses: males were attracted to signals from virgin females, but not to signals from non-virgins. Likewise, virgin females were attracted to signals from males, but non-virgin females were not. We discuss our data in the context of the potential costs and benefits of mate searching and suggest that distance chemical communication of sexual status may be particularly advantageous when the costs of mate searching are high.