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Effect of mating history on gender preference in the hermaphroditic snail physa acuta
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Several internally fertilizing hermaphroditic animals can only perform one sexual role at a time. In such species, two individuals that engage in a copulation may have different interests in acting as male or female. A gender choice must be made which, if both individuals have the same preference, may give rise to a severe sexual conflict. Here we tested the hypothesis that gender choice could be influenced by mating history, using the freshwater snail, Physa acuta. We recorded the copulatory behaviour of 240 pairs composed of a focal individual and a partner, each either short- or long-isolated. We found that the time to the first copulation was unaffected by isolation status, suggesting that first contacts in this species are random processes. In contrast, the duration of copulations and the frequency of rejection behaviours suggested that individual gender preference switches from male biased to female biased as isolation increases. In addition, snails rejected copulations more frequently when presented to a partner with the same isolation status. Reciprocity, measured as the rate of gender swapping between the first and second copulations, was high irrespective of gender status. We suggest possible evolutionary causes for this gender preference switch and discuss its potential importance in natural population as well as its consequences for the maintenance of hermaphroditism
freshwater snail, gender preference, hermaphrodite, mating history, mating system, Physa acuta, reproductive behaviour, sexual conflict
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