Effects of age, size, and mating history on sex role decision of a simultaneous hermaphrodite

Y. Nakadera, E.M. Swart, J.P.A. Maas, K Montagne-Wajer, A. Ter Maat, J.M. Koene

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Contrasting with separate-sexed animals, simultaneous hermaphrodites display unique reproductive strategies as they are male and female at the same time. Simultaneous hermaphrodites that copulate unilaterally, for instance, make a decision to mate as a male or female. Previous studies have demonstrated that sex role preference in hermaphrodites is flexible and is controlled by several, often confounding, factors. We examined the relationship between sex role decisions and 3 life-history traits (age, size, and mating history) in the great pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. Based on our field observations, which indicate that adult individuals show overlapping generations and large variation in body size during the breeding season, we performed a sex role choice experiment in the laboratory. We found that young and small snails mate as males first. Both age and size significantly affected sex role decision, with age having a stronger effect. Furthermore, we tested whether L. stagnalis becomes reluctant to inseminate a mate after being inseminated because it is known that after insemination, male investment substantially reduces. Contrary to expectations, our results indicate that the receipt of seminal fluid does not seem to reduce male motivation. In sum, sex role decisions in L. stagnalis are largely determined by age and size but not by having received seminal fluid. This mating pattern, however, does not fully support the size-advantage model because large or old individuals did not perform better as females in our experiment. These results imply a conflicting mating interest, rather than harmonious agreement, between age- and size-different hermaphrodites.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)232-241
    JournalBehavioral Ecology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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