Mutual mate choice in crayfish: large body size is selected by both sexes, virginity by males only


Laura Aquiloni, Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e Genetica, Università di Firenze, Via Romana 17, 50125 Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 2288216; Fax: +39 055 222565


Mate choice is often assumed to be a prerogative of females because of their putatively larger reproductive investment than males. However, recent evidence suggests that spermatogenesis is far from being limitless and that males show a high selectivity towards their mates, thus maximizing their reproductive success. We investigated mutual mate choice in the crayfish Procambarus clarkii through two experiments. The first experiment explored the effects of body size, chelar size and chelar symmetry and social status of a potential partner. In the second experiment, we asked whether this species can discriminate between partners of the same body size but with different mating status. We used a binary choice test paradigm, in which two ‘targets’ with opposing characteristics were simultaneously presented to a test animal, the ‘chooser’. The results showed that P. clarkii males are more selective than expected. Similar to the other sex, they were significantly attracted by targets with large body sizes, but not by individuals with larger and symmetric chelae or with a dominant status. An inter-sexual difference was found in the second experiment, in which only males seemed to select virgin potential mates. The several adaptive explanations for these preferences, still under debate, are finally discussed.