Sperm transfer or spermatangia removal: postcopulatory behaviour of picking up spermatangium by female Japanese pygmy squid


In the Japanese pygmy squid Idiosepius paradoxus, females often pick up the spermatangium using their mouth (buccal mass) after copulation. To examine whether the female I. paradoxus directly transfers sperm into the seminal receptacle via this picking behaviour, or removes the spermatangium, we conducted detailed observations of picking behaviour in both virgin and copulated females and compared the sperm storage conditions in the seminal receptacle between females with and without spermatangia picking after copulation in virgin females. In all observations, elongation of the buccal mass occurred within 5 min after copulation. However, sperm volume in the seminal receptacle was not related to spermatangia picking. Observations using slow-motion video revealed that females removed the spermatangia by blowing or eating after picking. These results suggest that picking behaviour is used for sperm removal but not for sperm transfer. Moreover, the frequency of buccal mass elongation was higher in copulated females than in virgin females, consistent with the sequential mate choice theory whereby virgin females secure sperm for fertilisation, while previously copulated females are more selective about their mate. Female I. paradoxus may choose its mate cryptically through postcopulatory picking behaviour.

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We thank S. Awata for critical comments on the manuscript. We also thank T. Wada and three anonymous referees for their helpful comments. This study was supported financially by the Mikimoto Fund for Marine Ecology (to NS).

Author information

Correspondence to Noriyosi Sato.

Additional information

Communicated by U. Sommer.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Picking behaviour of spermatangia by a female. The female elongated its buccal mass (mouth) to the spermatangia. Supplementary material 1 (WMV 6490 kb)

A female picked up some spermatangia using the buccal mass and blew them away by jetting water from the funnel. The latter part of the video shows a slow-motion replay of the blowing behaviour. Supplementary material 2 (WMV 5615 kb)

Picking behaviour of spermatangia by a female. The female elongated its buccal mass (mouth) to the spermatangia. Supplementary material 1 (WMV 6490 kb)

A female picked up some spermatangia using the buccal mass and blew them away by jetting water from the funnel. The latter part of the video shows a slow-motion replay of the blowing behaviour. Supplementary material 2 (WMV 5615 kb)

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Sato, N., Kasugai, T. & Munehara, H. Sperm transfer or spermatangia removal: postcopulatory behaviour of picking up spermatangium by female Japanese pygmy squid. Mar Biol 160, 553–561 (2013) doi:10.1007/s00227-012-2112-5

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  • Virgin Female
  • Seminal Receptacle
  • Cryptic Female Choice
  • Buccal Mass
  • Dorsal Mantle Length