Female impersonation as an alternative reproductive strategy in giant cuttlefish

  • Norman M
  • Finn J
  • Tregenza T
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Out of all the animals, the cephalopods possess an unrivalled ability to change their shape and body patterns. Our observations of giant cuttle�sh (Sepia apama) suggest this ability has allowed them to evolve alternative mating strategies in which males can switch between the appearance of a female and that of a male in order to foil the guarding attempts of larger males. At a mass breeding aggregation in South Australia, we repeatedly observed single small males accompanying mating pairs. While doing so, the small male assumed the body shape and patterns of a female. Such males were never attacked by the larger mate-guarding male. On more than 20 occasions, when the larger male was distracted by another male intruder, these small males, previously indistinguishable from a female, were observed to change body pattern and behaviour to that of a male in mating display. These small males then attempted to mate with the female, often with success. This potential for dynamic sexual mimicry may have played a part in driving the evolution of the remarkable powers of colour and shape transformation which characterize the cephalopods.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Cephalopods
  • Cuttlefish
  • Mass
  • Mating Strategy
  • Mating strategies
  • Patterns
  • South Australia
  • ability
  • aggregation
  • alternative mating strategies
  • alternative reproductive strategies
  • behaviour
  • body
  • breeding
  • change
  • colour
  • colour change
  • display
  • evolution
  • female
  • guarding
  • male
  • male mimicry
  • males
  • mate
  • mate guarding
  • mating
  • mimicry
  • pattern
  • reproductive strategies
  • reproductive strategy
  • shape
  • strategies
  • strategy
  • success

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  • M D Norman

  • J Finn

  • T Tregenza

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