Chemical Communication in Decapod Shrimps: The Influence of Mating and Social Systems on the Relative Importance of Olfactory and Contact Pheromones



Interest in chemoreception of decapod shrimps has been stimulated by observations indicative of sex pheromones, such as frenzied male searching and copulatory activity in the presence of premolt or recently postmolt reproductive females. Review of previous studies on shrimp mating behavior led to the formulation of hypotheses about the variation of chemical communication with mating and social systems. Penaeoidean and many caridean species are highly mobile and live in dense aggregations, resulting in frequent contacts among individuals. In such species, males are usually stimulated to copulatory behavior by apparent contact pheromones on the newly molted female’s exoskeleton, received by contact with the male’s antennal flagella. In species with temporary mate guarding, males search for premolt reproductive females, which release water soluble substances received by olfactory receptors (aesthetascs). Males guard females for some days until the female molt, after which mating occurs, followed by male abandonment to search for other females. In “neighborhoods of dominance” mating systems, it is the premolt parturial female that seeks out a large dominant male, stimulated by his olfactory pheromones. She is then guarded by the male, which will mate with her after her molt. In monogamous mate guarding species, males and females form permanent pairs, with the initial pairing perhaps mediated by sex pheromones emitted and perceived by both sexes. Olfactory sex pheromones are given off by females in many caridean species just after the molt, stimulating nearby males and ensuring mate finding. Recognition of pair partners or social (agonistic) status of an individual is chemically mediated in various decapod shrimps. The exact source and chemical composition of olfactory sex pheromones is still unknown, but both cuticular hydrocarbons and glycoproteins have been implicated as contact sex pheromones. Comparative studies with additional species are required to test these hypotheses about the form of chemical communication in different mating systems. Isolation and chemical identification of sex and individual-recognition pheromones is a major avenue of future research. Results of such studies may not only result in a greater understanding of chemoreception per se, but also may lead to commercial applications in shrimp fisheries and aquaculture.


Chemical Communication Cuticular Hydrocarbon Receptive Female Pair Partner Parturial Female 



The author wishes to acknowledge support on shrimp pheromone research from NOAA Louisiana Sea Grant R/SA-03. This is contribution no. 123 of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Laboratory for Crustacean Research. My sincere thanks to Thomas Breithaupt and Martin Thiel for their careful editorial work and for the invitation to write this chapter on such an intriguing topic. I am grateful to outside reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of LouisianaLafayetteUSA

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