Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 8, pp 1865–1876 | Cite as

Chemical Signal Mediated Premating Reproductive Isolation in a Marine Polychaete, Neanthes acuminata (Arenaceodentata)

  • R. Sutton
  • E. Bolton
  • H. D. Bartels-Hardege
  • M. Eswards
  • D. J. Reish
  • J. D. Hardege


Neanthes acuminata Ehlers (1868) is a monogamous coastal polychaete with male parental care and a high level of sexual selection. We measured the level of prezygotic isolation among allopatric populations of N. acuminata; from the East and West Coast of the USA, a population from Hawaii, and a laboratory culture originating from Los Angeles, CA. All populations were found to preferably mate with members of their own population. Individuals from populations from Atlantic vs. Pacific Ocean failed to pair and to mate, either during the 10 min or 48 hr experiments. Instead, individuals showed high levels of aggressive behavior. Experiments measuring the levels of interpopulation aggression, established that individuals can recognize and discriminate among different populations of N. acuminata on the basis of olfactory cues. Aggressive behavior was induced by exposure of animals to seawater “conditioned” by individuals from the other populations, thus demonstrating the role of olfaction in the detection of “home” populations. The aggressive display was stronger upon exposure to seawater conditioned with “unrelated” populations and especially between Pacific and Atlantic populations.

Key Words

Neanthes acuminata premating isolation sex pheromones pop-ulation variations in chemical cues 



We thank Dr. Jim Weinberg for kindly providing us with the Neanthes cultures and fruitful discussions, Dr. T. Breithaupt for help on statistics, and J. Duck and V. Swetez for assistance with the culture of the worms. The authors gratefully acknowledge funding for this work by the Royal Society and by the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, through a summer research fellowship to J.D.H.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Sutton
    • 1
  • E. Bolton
    • 2
  • H. D. Bartels-Hardege
    • 2
  • M. Eswards
    • 2
  • D. J. Reish
    • 3
  • J. D. Hardege
    • 2
  1. 1.School of BiosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesHull UniversityHullUK
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesCalifornia State UniversityLong BeachUSA

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