When Sex Goes to Their Heads – Sea Slugs Have A Two-Pronged Strategy
Slugs may ensure mating success with a shot to beloved’s forehead, say Tübingen evolutionary biologists
Humans are encouraged to say it with flowers, but a small marine slug prefers to inject his mate with prostate secretions while making love. The Siphopteron species mates in the usual way, placing sperm inside the female’s genital tract – while also using a special cannula to deposit proteins close to her central nervous system.
Dr. Rolanda Lange, Johanna Werminghausen and Dr. Nils Anthes of the Institute of Evolution and Ecology at Tübingen University describe the process in the current online edition of Proceedings of the Royal Society B. While this kind of cephalo-traumatic secretion transfer has been observed in a number of species, this particular shot to the head is something new.
Dr. Rolanda Lange and her team of researchers suspect that the secretion contains bioactive proteins which can enter the female’s nervous system to manipulate reproduction – possibly increasing the number of eggs laid or ensuring that the most recent sperm are preferred to those of earlier mates.
And if that sound a little below the belt, bear in mind that Siphopteron is a hermaphrodite – any “female” thus manipulated will get a chance to wear the trousers next time round.
Dr. Rolanda Lange, Johanna Werminghausen, Dr. Nils Anthes: Cephalo-traumatic secretion transfer in a hermaphrodite sea slug. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.2424
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