Jun 17, 2006

The snail's love-dart delivers mucus to increase paternity

Proceedings. Biological Sciences
Ronald Chase, Katrina C Blanchard


Many of the seemingly bizarre animal behaviours can be understood only by acknowledging the power of sex to shape evolution. A case in point is the so-called love-dart that some terrestrial molluscs shoot at their prospective sexual partners. Given that the likelihood of copulation is not different after solid hits than after complete misses, why do these suitors act so violently towards their chosen mates? Previously, it was shown that successful dart shooting enhances paternity. We conducted an experiment to determine whether the dart achieves its effect by a purely mechanical action or by transferring a bioactive substance. We found that injections of mucus from a gland associated with the dart more than doubled paternity relative to injections of saline. These results support the hypothesis that the dart transfers a substance capable of reconfiguring the spermatophore-receiving organs. While dart shooting probably evolved as the result of sperm competition, a role for cryptic female choice cannot be excluded. Our results imply that if cryptic female choice is operating in this system, it is likely to be based on the properties of the mucus and not on properties of the dart itself. Since we also found evidence of early-male ...Continue Reading

Mentioned in this Paper

CFC1 gene
Helix (Snails)
Sexual Behavior, Animal
Sperm Competition
Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology
Sequence Determinations, DNA

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