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Observations on the sexual system and the natural history of the semi-terrestrial shrimp Merguia rhizophorae (Rathbun, 1900)

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The sexual system of the semi-terrestrial shrimp Merguia rhizophorae is described, along with natural history observations on this unusual caridean. Individuals of M. rhizophorae in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama, were found occupying fossilized coral terraces in the upper and mid-intertidal zones, inhabiting caves and crevices, in and out of water. These fossilized coral terraces represent a new habitat for this species, which was previously reported only from mangrove swamps. Males, which made up 65% of the studied population, were smaller than females on average. No small juvenile females were observed, but transitional individuals having the characteristics of both males (gonopores) and females (ovaries) were observed in the population. These data suggest that individuals of M. rhizophorae are protandric hermaphrodites. Logistic regression indicated that the carapace length at which 50% of the individuals change sex is 4.89 mm. The abundance of shrimps at the study site was low. Shrimps were usually solitary, but occasionally observed in groups of ≤5 individuals. Shrimps were commonly observed walking while out of water, and in some cases, emerged shrimps jumped vigorously, presumably to avoid capture by the researcher or by predatory crabs. Additional studies on the reproductive biology and the behavioral ecology of members of this genus and of members of the closely related families Barbouridae and Lysmatidae will aid in understanding the evolutionary origin and the adaptive value of gender expression patterns in shrimps.

Keywords: Caridea; protandry; sex allocation; sex ratio

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2010


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