Evol Ecol Res 4: 1191-1199 (2002)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

On the adaptive function of gamete trading in the black hamlet Hypoplectrus nigricans

Michael A. Landolfa*

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Pfotenhauerstrasse 108, 01307 Dresden, Germany

e-mail: landolfa@mpi-cbg.de


Explanations for the sexual behaviour of gonochoristic (dioecious) and hermaphroditic animal species differ. Gonochore sexual behaviours are generally understood in the context of sexual signals, whereas those of hermaphrodites have been explained by sexual conflict resolution. Specifically, the alternation or simultaneity of mating roles observed in some hermaphroditic species has been attributed to conditional reciprocity, in which an individual’s donation of gametes (eggs or sperm) appears to depend on its partner’s release of that same gamete type. Because it appears that individuals ‘give gametes to get gametes’ so as to avoid being cheated, this phenomenon is known as ‘gamete trading’. Here, the observations from the original report analysing the egg trading behaviour of the sea bass Hypoplectrus nigricans are re-interpreted within the context of modern sexual signalling theory. Questions raised by the gamete trading hypothesis are resolved once the observed behaviours are viewed as sexual signals. I therefore propose that ‘giving gametes to get gametes’ represents conventional sexual signalling. Generalization of the hypothesis to other hermaphroditic mating systems, combined with empirical support, should contribute to a consistent theory of sexual signalling that is applicable to all animal mating systems.

Keywords: egg trading, gamete trading, good genes, hermaphrodites, sexual signals.

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