Marine Biology

, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 81–86 | Cite as

Population structure and sex-change in the coral-inhabiting snailCoralliophila violacea at Hsiao-Liuchiu, Taiwan

  • K. Soong
  • J. -L. Chen


Surveys of the coral-inhabiting snailCoralliophila violacea (Lamarck) (=C. neritoidea Kiener) were made on shallow fringing reefs (<8 m deep) around Hsiao-Liuchiu, Taiwan, between July and October 1990. The snails were aggregated into patches on the surface of massive poritid coral colonies. Coral colonies >40 cm in diameter were more likely to bear patches of snails than smaller colonies, and also to have more snails. The coralliophilids ranged from 5 to 30 mm in aperture length. The sex ratio of the population was biased toward males (539:279), with only a few small individuals of indistinguishable sex. Snails between 6 and 10 mm were all males, while most snails with aperture lengths ≥20 mm were females. Judging from the distinct size ranges of males and females within patches and from the observed degeneration of the penis, the snails may have changed sex from male to female with increasing size. Sex-change may occur across a wide size range (10 to 20 mm). The correlation of smallest female size and largest male size among patches indicates that snail size at sex-change is peculiar to each individual patch. Those females in patches with a single female (but many males) were significantly smaller than females in multiple-female patches. It is likely that in the absence of females males change sex at a smaller size, whereas in the presence of large females males delay sexchange until they have reached a larger size. The plasticity of size at sex-change may be adaptive and a result of natural selection at the individual level.


Small Individual Small Coloni Coral Coloni Large Female Female Male 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature cited

  1. Brawley, S. H., Adey, W. H. (1982).Coralliophila abbreviata: a significant corallivore! Bull. mar. Sci. 32: 595–599Google Scholar
  2. Chanov, E. L. (1982). The theory of sex allocation. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  3. Chanov, E. L., Bull, J. J. (1989). Non-Fisherian sex ratios with sex change and environmental sex determination. Nature, Lond. 338: 148–150Google Scholar
  4. Coe, W. R. (1953). Influences of association, isolation, and nutrition on the sexuality of snails of the genusCrepidula. J. exp. Zool. 122: 5–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Creese, R. G., Shiel, D. R., Kingsford, M. J. (1990). Sex change in a giant endemic limpet,Patella kermadecensis, from the Kermadec Islands. Mar. Biol. 104: 419–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ghiselin, M. T. (1969). The evolution of hermaphroditism among animals. Q. Rev. Biol. 44: 189–208CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Gould, H. N. (1952). Studies on sex in the hermaphrodite molluskCrepidula plana. 4. Internal and external factors influencing growth and sex development. J. exp. Zool. 119: 93–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hayes, J. A. (1989). The biology and ecology ofCoralliophila abbreviata Lamarck (Gastropoda, Coralliophilidae): the importance of corallivores in the ecology of coral reefs. Ph. D. dissertation. University of Texas at AustinGoogle Scholar
  9. Hayes, J. A. (1990). Distribution, movement and impact of the corallivorous gastropodCoralliophila abbreviata (Lamarck) on a Panamanian patch reef. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 142: 25–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hoagland, K. E. (1978). Protandry and the evolution of environmentally-mediated sex change: a study of the Mollusca. Malacologia 17: 365–391Google Scholar
  11. Miller, A. C. (1981). Cnidarian prey of the snailsCoralliophila abbreviata andC. caribaea (Gastropoda: Muricidae) in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Bull. mar. Sci. 31: 932–934Google Scholar
  12. Orton, J. H. (1912). An account of the natural history of the slipper limpet (Crepidula fornicata) with some remarks on its occurrence in the oyster ground on the Essex coast. J. mar. biol. Ass. U.K. 9: 437–478Google Scholar
  13. Ott, B. S., Lewis, J. B. (1972). The importance of the gastropod,Coralliophila abbreviata (Lamarck) and the polychaeteHermodice carunculata (Pallas) as coral reef predators. Can. J. Zool. 50: 1651–1656Google Scholar
  14. Robertson, R. (1970). Review of the predators and parasites of stony corals, with special reference to symbiotic prosobranch gastropods. Pacif. Sci. 24: 43–54Google Scholar
  15. Robertson, R. (1980).Epitonium millecostatum andCoralliophila clathrata: two prosobranch gastropods symbiotic with Indo-PacificPalythoa (Coelenterata: Zoanthidae). Pacif. Sci. 34: 1–17Google Scholar
  16. Sokal, R. R., Rohlf, F. J. (1981). Biometry. The principles and practice of statistics in biological research. W. H. Freeman & Co., San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  17. Ward, J. (1965). The digestive tract and its relation to feeding habits in the stenoglossan prosobranchCoralliophila abbreviata (Lamarck). Can. J. Zool. 43: 447–464PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Wells, F. E., Lalli, C. M. (1977). Reproduction and brood protection in the Caribbean gastropodsCoralliophila abbreviata andC. caribaea. J. mollusc. Stud. 43: 78–87Google Scholar
  19. Wright, W. G. (1989). Intraspecific density mediates sex-change in the territorial patellacean limpetLottia gigantea. Mar. Biol. 100: 353–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Soong
    • 1
  • J. -L. Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Marine BiologyNational Sun Yat-sen UniversityKaohsiungTaiwan, Republic of China

Personalised recommendations