• Open Access

Sexual selection maintains whole-body chiral dimorphism in snails

Authors


  • Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5, which does not permit commercial exploitation.

M. Schilthuizen, National Museum of Natural History ‘Naturalis’, PO Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.
Tel.: +31 71 5687769; fax: +31 71 5687666; e-mail: schilthuizen@naturalis.nl

Abstract

Although the vast majority of higher animals are fixed for one chiral morph or another, the cause for this directionality is known in only a few cases. In snails, for example, rare individuals of the opposite coil are unable to mate with individuals of normal coil, so directionality is maintained by frequency-dependent selection. The snail subgenus Amphidromus presents an unexplained exception, because dextral (D) and sinistral (S) individuals occur sympatrically in roughly equal proportions (so-called ‘antisymmetry’) in most species. Here we show that in Amphidromus there is sexual selection for dimorphism, rather than selection for monomorphism. We found that matings between D and S individuals occur more frequently than expected by chance. Anatomical investigations showed that the chirality of the spermatophore and the female reproductive tract probably allow a greater fecundity in such inter-chiral matings. Computer simulation confirms that under these circumstances, sustained dimorphism is the expected outcome.

Ancillary