The females of most species of snail excrete a substance in their mucous trails that enables males to find them more easily, since they can distinguish between trails from females and those from other males. The males follow the mucous trails laid down by females in order to find a partner for mating. However, the females of one of the species studied (Littorina saxatilis) have stopped labelling their mucous trails.
Scientists at Tjärnö have shown in a previous study that a snail may carry offspring that result from copulation with at least 20 males.
"It is beneficial for males to mate as often as possible, since this is the only way in which they can influence the number of offspring they father. But it is costly for the females to mate often, and this is important for them in surviving during the period they are carrying offspring."
A situation in which individuals of different gender have conflicting interests is known as a "sexual conflict". Such conflicts can arise in various situations, and this is one of few examples of a sexual conflict in which the females attempt to conceal their gender. There are some other examples, including certain species of damselfly in which some of the females conceal their gender, simply by having the same colouring as the males.
The study of the remarkable behaviour of the rough periwinkle has been carried out by Kerstin Johannesson in collaboration with Sara Saltin, Iris Duranovic, Jon Havenhand and Per Jonsson at the Department of Marine Ecology, University of Gothenburg.The study – Indiscriminate Males: Mating Behavior of a Marine Snail Compromised by a Sexual Conflict? – has been published in the web-based scientific journal PLoS ONE.
Link to the study:http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0012005
Helena Aaberg | idw
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