Fighting for mates: the importance of individual size in mating contests in rocky shore littorinids
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Authors: Ng, T.P.T., Davies, M.S., Stafford, R. and Williams, G.A.
Journal: Marine Biology
© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Studies of mating contests have reported how traits (e.g. body size) related to resource-holding potential (RHP) and strategies to assess RHP and resource value influence contest outcome in many taxa but are rare in the Gastropoda. The influence of male size (as an index of RHP) and female size (as a measure of resource value) on contest outcome was investigated in two littorinid snails, Echinolittorina malaccana and E. radiata, in Hong Kong during May–June 2013. In these snails, contests between males take the form of a ‘challenger’ attempting to take over the copulation position occupied by a ‘defender’. Both challengers and defenders were, generally, smaller than the females in both species. In both species, the larger the challenger relative to the defender, the more likely he would replace the defender in the copulation position. The challengers were, however, more successful in E. radiata, as they generally challenged defenders that were smaller than themselves, suggesting an ability to detect rival size before entering into a contest in this species. When sizes of the contestants were similar, defenders were more likely to win contests in E. malaccana but not in E. radiata. Evidence for pure self-assessment of RHP and the ability to assess resource value in challengers was found in E. malaccana. Different fighting strategies appear to have evolved in these congeneric marine snail species, and decisions based on male and female sizes play an important role in determining male reproductive success.