Competition for fertilisation in hermaphroditic animals seems to have led to many odd behaviours and complex morphologies involved in the transfer of accessory-gland products to the partner. Terrestrial slugs of the genus Deroceras show remarkably elaborate and interspecifically diverse penis morphologies and mating behaviours. Most species have an appending penial gland, which in Deroceras panormitanum consists of a few long fingers that are everted after sperm exchange and laid onto the partner's back. To investigate whether this gland transfers a secretion onto the partner's skin, we killed slugs at different mating stages and studied their penial glands and skin histologically. Two types of secretion granules appeared at a very early stage of courtship, and the penial gland was already filled 15min into the courtship. At copulation, the gland everted this secretion onto the partner's body, where it remained for at least 50min. No lysis of skin tissue or other effects on the skin were observed. The slugs tried to lick the received secretion off their own body, and some droplets were observed to be shed with the body mucus. Our results indicate the external application of a glandular substance that could function as either a pheromone or allohormone. The behaviours of the recipients suggest sexual conflict, although mutual interest cannot be ruled out.
- Bodily Secretions
- Exocrine Glands
- Journal Article
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't