Mating behavior of female rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus (Decapoda: Caridea)—indication for convenience polyandry and cryptic female choice


While studies on a wide diversity of organisms have demonstrated the importance of female behavior during matings, in crustacean studies, a strong bias towards male mating behavior prevails. Reproductively mature rock shrimp (Rhynchocinetes typus) exist as several ontogenetic stages that differ in their morphological and physiological capacities. In natural populations, the majority of males are in early ontogenetic stages (termed typus), many are in intermediate stages (intermedius), and few are in the terminal molt stage (robustus). Dominant robustus males, which have already demonstrated their biological fitness by surviving to this stage, have previously been shown to have a higher potential than subordinate typus males to defend receptive females against other males, and fertilize the entire clutch of a female. While females should thus show a preference for robustus males, they nevertheless frequently receive sperm from typus males. These observations suggested that females might have mechanisms to discriminate against sperm from subordinate males. In laboratory experiments, we observed that females avoided being seized by typus males for longer time periods in the absence of robustus males than in their presence. Following seizure, females that were initially held by typus males, required more time to initiate spawning than those held by robustus males. Many typus males transferred spermatophores to females before these started to spawn while robustus males waited until females began to spawn before they transferred spermatophores. Females manipulated spermatophores received from typus males for long time periods (minutes), but not those they received from robustus males. By accepting sperm from subordinate typus males, females may avoid further harassment (convenience polyandry), but they subsequently may discriminate against these subordinate males by delaying spawning and removing their sperm. These observations suggest that female behavior influences the outcome of matings, favoring fertilization of eggs by sperm from dominant males. Convenience polyandry and cryptic female choice may be common in other crustaceans as well.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 5A, B.
Fig. 6.


  1. Arnqvist G, Danielsson I (1999) Postmating sexual selection: the effects of male body size and recovery period on paternity and egg production rate in a water strider. Behav Ecol 10:358–365

  2. Arnqvist G, Nilsson T (2000) The evolution of polyandry: multiple mating and female fitness in insects. Anim Behav 60:145–164

  3. Backwell PRY, Passmore NI (1996) Time constraints and multiple choice criteria in the sampling behaviour and mate choice of the fiddler crab, Uca annulipes. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 38:407–416

  4. Bauer RT (1976) Mating behaviour and spermatophore transfer in the shrimp Heptacarpus pictus (Stimpson) (Decapoda: Caridea: Hippolytidae). J Nat Hist 10:415–440

  5. Bauer RT (1992) Repetitive copulation and variable success of insemination in the marine shrimp Sicyonia dorsalis (Decapoda: Penaeoidea). J Crust Biol 12:153–160

  6. Bauer RT (1996) A test of hypotheses on male mating systems and female molting in decapod shrimp, using Sicyonia dorsalis (Decapoda: Penaeoidea). J Crust Biol 16:429–436

  7. Birkhead TR, Møller AP (1992) Sperm competition in birds—evolutionary causes and consequences. Academic, London

  8. Birkhead TR, Møller AP (eds) (1998) Sperm competition and sexual selection. Academic, London

  9. Blanckenhorn WU, Mühlhäuser C, Morf C, Reusch T, Reuter M (2000) Female choice, female reluctance to mate and sexual selection on body size in the dung fly Sepsis cynipsea. Ethology 106:577–593

  10. Brown WD, Crespi BJ, Choe JC (1997) Sexual conflict and the evolution of mating systems. In: Choe JC, Crespi BJ (eds) The evolution of mating systems in insects and arachnids. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 352–377

  11. Christy JH (1987) Competitive mating, mate choice and mating associations of brachyuran crabs. Bull Mar Sci 41:177–191

  12. Christy JH, Salmon M (1984) Ecology and evolution of mating systems of fiddler crabs (Genus Uca). Biol Rev 59:483–509

  13. Clark RA (1997) Dimorphic male display alternative reproductive strategies in the marine amphipod Jassa marmorata Holmes (Corophioidea: Ischyroceridae). Ethology 103:531–553

  14. Clark R, Caudill CC (2001) Females of the marine amphipod Jassa marmorata mate multiple times with the same or different males. Mar Freshwater Behav Phys 34:131–138

  15. Cordero A, Andrés JA (2002) Male coercion and convenience polyandry in a calopterygid damselfly. J Insect Sci 2:14

  16. Correa C, Thiel M (2003) Population structure and operational sex ratio in the rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus (Decapoda: Caridea). J Crust Biol 23:849–861

  17. Correa C, Baeza JA, Dupré E, Hinojosa IA, Thiel M (2000) Mating behavior and fertilization success of three ontogenetic stages of male rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus (Decapoda: Caridea). J Crust Biol 20:628–640

  18. Correa C, Baeza JA, Hinojosa IA, Thiel M (2003) Male dominance hierarchy and mating tactics in the rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus (Decapoda: Caridea). J Crust Biol 23:33–45

  19. Cowan DF (1991) The role of olfaction in courtship behavior of the American lobster Homarus americanus. Biol Bull 181:402–407

  20. Díaz ER, Thiel M (2003) Female rock shrimp prefer dominant males. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 83:941–942

  21. Diesel R (1990) Sperm competition and reproductive success in the decapod Inachus phalangium (Majidae): a male ghost spider crab that seals off rivals’ sperm. J Zool 220:213–223

  22. Diesel R (1991) Sperm competition and the evolution of mating behavior in Brachyura, with special reference to spider crabs (Decapoda, Majidae). In: Bauer RT, Martin JW (eds) Crustacean sexual biology. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 145–163

  23. Donaldson WE, Adams AE (1989) Ethogram of behavior with emphasis on mating for the tanner crab Chionoecetes bairdi Rathbun. J Crust Biol 9:37–53

  24. Dupré E, Schaaf G (1996) Influence of ions on the unfolding of the spermatozoa of the rock shrimp, Rhynchocinetes typus. J Exp Zool 274:358–364

  25. Eberhard WG (1996) Female control: sexual selection by cryptic female choice. Princeton University Press, Princeton

  26. Franke HD (2000) Alternative male mating behaviours and sperm competition in the marine isopod Jaera hopeana (Crustacea). J Reprod Dev 46 [Suppl]:47–48

  27. González-Gurriarán E, Fernández L, Freire J, Muiño R (1998) Mating and role of seminal receptacles in the reproductive biology of the spider crab Maja squinado (Decapoda, Majidae). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 220:269–285

  28. Hartnoll RG (2000) Evolution of brachyuran mating behavior: relation to the female molting pattern. Crust Issues 12:519–525

  29. Hinojosa I, Thiel M (2003) Somatic and gametic resources in male rock shrimp, Rhynchocinetes typus—effect of mating potential and ontogenetic male stage. Anim Behav 66:449–458

  30. Jensen PC, Orensanz JM, Armstrong DA (1996) Structure of the female reproductive tract in the Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) and implications for the mating system. Biol Bull 190:336–349

  31. Jivoff P, Hines AH (1998a) Effect of female molt stage and sex ratio on courtship behavior of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus. Mar Biol 131:533–542

  32. Jivoff P, Hines AH (1998b) Female behaviour, sexual competition and mate guarding in the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. Anim Behav 55:589–603

  33. Jormalainen V (1998) Precopulatory mate guarding in crustaceans—male competitive strategy and intersexual conflict. Q Rev Biol 73:275–304

  34. Jormalainen V, Merilaita S, Riihimäki J (2001) Costs of intersexual conflict in the isopod Idotea baltica. J Evol Biol 14:763–772

  35. Koga T, Henmi Y, Murai M (1993) Sperm competition and the assurance of underground copulation in the sand-bubbler crab Scopimera globosa (Brachyura: Ocypodidae). J Crust Biol 13:134–137

  36. MacDiarmid AB, Butler IV MJ (1999) Sperm economy and limitation in spiny lobsters. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 46:14–24

  37. McLain DK, Pratt AE (1999) The cost of sexual coercion and heterospecific sexual harassment on the fecundity of a host-specific, seed-eating insect (Neacoryphus bicruis). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 46:164–170

  38. Paul AJ, Paul JM (1992) Second clutch viability of Chionoecetes bairdi Rathbun (Decapoda: Majidae) inseminated only at the maturity molt. J Crust Biol 12:438–441

  39. Paul AJ, Paul JM (1996) Observations on mating of multiparous Chionoecetes bairdi Rathbun (Decapoda: Majidae) held with different sizes of males and one-clawed males. J Crust Biol 16:295–299

  40. Paul JM, Paul AJ (1990) Breeding success of sublegal size male red king crab Paralithodes camtschatica (Tilesius, 1815) (Decapoda, Lithodidae). J Shellfish Res 9:29–32

  41. Pizzari T, Birkhead TR (2000) Female feral fowl eject sperm of subdominant males. Nature 405:787–789

  42. Qvarnström A, Forsgren E (1998) Should females prefer dominant males? Trends Ecol Evol 13:498–501

  43. Ra’anan Z, Sagi A (1985) Alternative mating strategies in male morphotypes of the freshwater prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii (De Man). Biol Bull 169:592–601

  44. Reyer HU, Frei G, Som C (1999) Cryptic female choice: frogs reduce clutch size when amplexed by undesired males. Proc R Soc Lond B 266:2101–2107

  45. Reynolds JD, Gross MR (1990) Costs and benefits of female mate choice: is there a lek paradox? Am Nat 136:230–243

  46. Rondeau A, Sainte-Marie B (2001) Variable mate-guarding time and sperm allocation by male snow crabs (Chionoecetes opilio) in response to sexual competition, and their impact on the mating success of females. Biol Bull 201:204–217

  47. Rowe L (1992) Convenience polyandry in a water strider: foraging conflicts and female control of copulation frequency and guarding duration. Anim Behav 44:189–202

  48. Rowe L, Arnqvist G (2002) Sexually antagonistic coevolution in a mating system: combining experimental and comparative approaches to address evolutionary processes. Evolution 56:754–767

  49. Sainte-Marie B, Hazel F (1992) Moulting and mating of snow crabs Chionoecetes opilio (O. Fabricius), in shallow waters of the northwestern Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 49:1282–1293

  50. Sainte-Marie B, Lovrich GA (1994) Delivery and storage of sperm at first mating of female Chionoecetes opilio (Brachyura: Majidae) in relation to size and morphometric maturity of male parent. J Crust Biol 14:508–521

  51. Sainte-Marie B, Sévigny JM, Gauthier Y (1997) Laboratory behavior of adolescent and adult males of the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) (Brachyura: Majidae) mated noncompetitively and competitively with primiparous females. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 54:239–248

  52. Sainte-Marie B, Urbani N, Sévigny JM, Hazel F, Kuhnlein U (1999) Multiple choice criteria and the dynamics of assortative mating during the first breeding season of female snow crab Chionoecetes opilio (Brachyura, Majidae). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 181:141–153

  53. Sainte-Marie G, Sainte-Marie B, Sévigny JM (2000) Ejaculate storage patterns and the site of fertilization in female snow crabs (Chionoecetes opilio; Brachyura, Majidae). Can J Zool 78:1902–1917

  54. Sévigny JM, Sainte-Marie B (1996) Electrophoretic data support the last-male sperm precedence hypothesis in the snow crab, Chionoecetes opilio (Brachyura: Majidae). J Shellfish Res 15:437–440

  55. Simmons LW (2001) Sperm competition and its evolutionary consequences in the insects. Princeton University Press, Princeton

  56. Snedden WA (1990) Determinants of male mating success in the temperate crayfish Orconectes rusticus: chela size and sperm competition. Behaviour 115:100–113

  57. Sparkes TC, Keogh DP, Haskins KE (2000) Female resistance and male preference in a stream-dwelling isopod: effects of female molt characteristics. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 47:145–155

  58. Thornhill R, Alcock J (1983) The evolution of insect mating systems. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass

  59. Urbani N, Sainte-Marie B, Sévigny JM, Zadworny D, Kuhnlein U (1998) Sperm competition and paternity assurance during the first breeding period of female snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) (Brachyura: Majidae). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:1104–1113

  60. Van der Meeren GI (1994) Sex and size dependent mating tactics in a natural population of shore crabs Carcinus maenas. J Anim Ecol 63:307–314

  61. Wahle R, Steneck RS (1991) Recruitment habitats and nursery grounds of the American lobster Homarus americanus: a demographic bottleneck? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 69:231–243

  62. Zimmer M (2001) Why do male terrestrial isopods (Isopoda: Oniscidea) not guard females? Anim Behav 62:815–821

Download references


We thank our rock shrimp gang, A. Baeza, C. Correa, E. Díaz and T. van Son, who contributed in many different ways to this study. We are most grateful to J. Christy, C. Correa and three anonymous referees for many helpful comments on the manuscript, and to R. Hiriart for his help with the editing of the video material. We thank M. Leon for the drawings. The experiments comply with the current laws of the Republic of Chile.

Author information

Correspondence to Martin Thiel.

Additional information

Communicated by T. Czeschlik

Electronic Supplementary Material

S1typus.wmv (1.9 MB)

S2robustus.wmv (1.9 MB)

S3spermatophoremanipultn.wmv (1.9 MB)

S1typus.wmv (1.9 MB)

S2robustus.wmv (1.9 MB)

S3spermatophoremanipultn.wmv (1.9 MB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Thiel, M., Hinojosa, I.A. Mating behavior of female rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus (Decapoda: Caridea)—indication for convenience polyandry and cryptic female choice. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 55, 113–121 (2003).

Download citation


  • Shrimp
  • Multiple mating
  • Female choice
  • Sperm removal
  • Male harassment