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Abstract

In polygamous mating systems, a capability to discriminate against familiar mates may be beneficial to both sexes. Polyandrous females, for instance, may enhance the odds of finding sires with optimal genetic compatibility or high genetic quality by mating with multiple different males; polygynous males, in addition, may more efficiently invest their limited ejaculates across multiple (rather than single) females. The Coolidge effect facilitates this kind of mate discrimination, as sexual motivation declines across consecutive copulations with a familiar partner but resurrects with a novel mate. In simultaneous hermaphrodites, we expect the Coolidge effect to show sex role-dependent patterns and vary with previous sex-specific mating activity. Using the promiscuous hermaphroditic sea slug Chelidonura sandrana, we investigated (1) whether sexual motivation indeed declines when repeatedly exposed to familiar partners, (2) whether the Coolidge effect occurs in a sex-specific manner and (3) whether ejaculation is strategic with respect to partner familiarity. We found neither mating latency, nor penis intromission duration, mating propensity or the frequency of sex role alternations to vary significantly with treatments. Furthermore, slugs did not donate larger ejaculates to novel than to familiar partners. Partner novelty thus elicited no detectable response in sexual motivation or mating effort in C. sandrana. We suggest that the sea slugs' promiscuous mating system in often large mating aggregations makes mate discrimination based on novelty obsolete in comparison with more relevant criteria such as partner body size or mating history.