Marine Biology

, 166:33 | Cite as

Same-sex sexual behaviour in an oceanic ommastrephid squid, Dosidicus gigas (Humboldt squid)

  • Henk-Jan T. HovingEmail author
  • Fernando Á. Fernández-Álvarez
  • Elan J. Portner
  • William F. Gilly
Original paper


Dosidicus gigas (the Humboldt squid) is a widely distributed and ecologically important predator in the eastern Pacific Ocean, but its mating behaviour is poorly understood. Individuals of this species have undergone a drastic change in size at maturity in the last years. We investigated mating activity of Humboldt squid in the Gulf of California in 2013, 2014, and 2015 by quantifying spermatangia deposited in the tissue of the buccal area. In 2015, we encountered the smallest mean mantle length of mature specimens recorded to date in the Gulf of California. In all years, numerous males were encountered that had been mated by other males. Spermatangia in males were deposited on the tissue in similar numbers and in the same location as normally occurs in females (the buccal area), suggesting that male-to-male mating behaviour is similar to male-to-female. This behaviour is referred to as same-sex sexual behaviour and has been described for various taxa, including other cephalopods. Overall similarity in mating frequency between males and females and in body size of mated individuals (in 2015) suggests non-discriminative and brief encounters with body size being a cue for mating. This mating strategy may be beneficial for males, as Humboldt squid live in groups where competition for mates is likely high. The energetic costs of male-to-male mating events may be counterbalanced by the fitness profits of indiscriminate mating behaviour.



HJTH was funded by a Grant (CP1218) of the Cluster of Excellence 80 “The Future Ocean.” “The Future Ocean” is funded within the framework of the Excellence Initiative by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) on behalf of the German federal and state governments. FAFA was supported by Grants (BES-2013-063551 and EEBB-I- 15-09631) from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO). WG acknowledges support from Stanford University and by Grants from the US National Science Foundation (IOS-1557754, OCE-1338973 RAPID, IOS-142093 EAGER, OCE 0850839), the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration (7578-04 and 9366-13), and Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund (LXII-15). EP was supported in part by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant no. DGE-114747. We thank Karmina Arroyo-Ramírez, Diana Li, Carlos Zayas Santiago, and Patrick Daniel for support in the field and the SURMAR program of the Ocean Foundation for use of laboratory facilities in Santa Rosalía.

Compliance with ethical standards

Data statement

The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available as electronic supplemental material (ESM) and will be available in the Pangaea repository.

Ethics statement

In 2013 and 2014, we obtained dead squid from fishermen. The specimens that were captured by our own jigging efforts in 2015 were killed using methods that are in line with current international standards for cephalopod care and welfare reviewed by Fiorito et al. (2015).

Supplementary material

227_2019_3476_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (431 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 431 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henk-Jan T. Hoving
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fernando Á. Fernández-Álvarez
    • 2
    • 3
  • Elan J. Portner
    • 3
  • William F. Gilly
    • 3
  1. 1.GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Hopkins Marine Station, Department of Biological SciencesStanford UniversityPacific GroveUSA

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