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Male parasitism and intrasexual competition in a burrowing barnacle

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In sexually dimorphic animals, large male body size is often associated with direct interference competition among males for access to females or resources used in reproduction. In constrast, small male body size may be associated with indirect scramble competition among males for temporal or spatial access to females. Minute, “parasitic” males of the acrothoracican barnacleTrypetesa lampas (Hancock) appear to compete with one another for permanent attachment sites on the external body of the female. Several spatial patterns suggest indirect male-male competition: 1) males were consistently aggregated on the anterior surface of the female ovarian disc; 2) the average distance from attached males to the site of insemination correlated positively with local male density; 3) average male body size on a female decreased as a function of male density; 4) the distribution of males on the left and right hand sides of the female ovarian disc was more even than expected, suggesting that males avoided crowded settlement sites. The number of males attached to a female increased with female body size and matched a null model in which males colonized female “targets” of differing areas. These results suggest that competition between males primarily affected settlement sites and male body sizes within, rather than among, females. Male parasitism may have evolved through both sexual selection for efficient access to females (Ghiselin 1974) and natural selection for reduced burrow density in a space-limited habitat (Turner and Yakovlev 1983).

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Correspondence to Nicholas J. Gotelli.

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Gotelli, N.J., Spivey, H.R. Male parasitism and intrasexual competition in a burrowing barnacle. Oecologia 91, 474–480 (1992).

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Key words

  • Acrothoracica
  • Male parasitism
  • Sexual selection
  • Male-male competition