Reproductive biology

Make Him a Monogamy Junkie

The Monogamy Method

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Most stomatopod species are solitary, with opposite sexes staying together only during mating. But some stomatopod species among families Lysiosquillidae and Nannosquillidae are monogamous, very rare among invertebrates. A monogamous stomatopod pair may remain together as long as both are alive, which can be 15-20 years.

Monogamous stomatopod pairs share one burrow and divide up duties, the female tending the eggs while the male hunts food for himself and the female. In non-monogamous species, the sexes only associate during mating and brooding. Some somatopod species mate any time of the year, while others have well-defined, limited periods of female receptivity that occur just before a female lays eggs.

Males may leave their burrows or crevices and seek out females for mating, or both sexes may roam about, looking for partners. Males perform elaborate mating rituals in front of potential mates. The female makes the final decision as to which male she favors for mating. In non-monogamous species, the female may accept one or several males for mating during any one fertile period.

Stomatopod fertilization is internal, and mating behavior somewhat parallels the mammalian. Males carry a pair of penes, penis-like organs attached to the bases of the last pair of pareopods. During mating, the penes erect themselves much as do mammalian penises. Male and female copulate underside-to-underside, the male inserting the penes into the female gonopores, on her ventral side. The sperm is stored in a small pocket within the body, just behind and within the gonopores.

The female extrudes the fertilized eggs through the gono-pores, where they are fertilized by the stored sperm just before they emerge. The female may not lay her egg mass immediately, but may wait weeks before doing so, waiting for strong ocean currents that are favorable to dispersing the young.

The female uses a gummy exhudate from glands on her ventral thorax to glue the extruded eggs into a single, portable mass that she carries with her or plasters to the wall of her burrow. Hatching may start up to three weeks after the egg mass is laid. A female will tend her eggs from 10 days to two months, depending on species. Hatchlings may remain in the burrow with the mother for a time period of a week to two months, or depart immediately upon hatching, for the pelagic stages of their development. Females of non-monogamous species do not eat while tending the egg mass.

During breeding, the male stomatopod, in both monogamous and solitary species, stands guard over the female before she spawns, and, if a solitary species, only leaves to make or find a new home when the female has spawned. Should he encounter the same female in her burrow while looking for a home, he leaves her undisturbed for up to two weeks after separation. The female, in her burrow, sensing an approaching stomatopod, shunts water currents outward from the burrow and toward the approaching individual with fanning motions of her maxillipeds. The male mate apparently recognizes the female's scent in the disturbed water, and leaves her alone.

Like many marine life forms, newly hatched stomatopod individuals pass through several distinct stages from hatching to maturity. The cycle from hatchling to adult takes about three months. The early larval stages may be benthic (sea bottom) and passed through within the mother's burrow, or pelagic (open sea), but all later stages are pelagic. At those stages the larvae are an abundant component of plankton, and thus a significant food source for plankton-feeding fish. Stom-atopod larvae are translucent, glassy, ephemeral-looking beings with wiry, skeletal bodies and huge, bulbous eyes.

A typical larva of superfamily Lysiosquilloidea hatches as an antizoea, with five pairs of biramous thoracic appendages and no abdominal appendages. The antizoea develops into an erichthus, with two or fewer intermediate denticles, or toothlike projections, on the telson, and pleopods sprouting in sequence from front to rear.

A larva of a species within superfamily Squilloidea or Gon-odactyloidea hatches as a pseudozoea, with two pairs of thoracic appendages and four or five pairs of pleopods. A squilloid pseudozoeae develops into an alima, with four or more intermediate denticles on the telson, while a gonodactyloid pseudozoeae develops into an erichthus. The development cycles of superfamilies Erythrosquilloidea and Bathysquilloidea are only poorly known.

Stomatopod postlarvae settle toward the sea bottom, resembling adults at this stage and living in the manner of adults.

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