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Free Content The Snow Crab Mating System: Opportunity for Natural and Unnatural Selection in a Changing Environment

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The impact of fishing as a driver of sexual selection is not well understood in crustaceans. Fishing must be viewed as acting in conjunction with, or in opposition to, natural factors, which also modify the context for sexual competition, mate choice, and sexual conflict. we review knowledge of the polygynandrous mating system of the snow crab and evaluate the likely interplay between natural and fishing forces in the process of sexual selection. The snow crab has determinate growth and two female reproductive stages (primiparous and multiparous) with discrete and disjunct mating seasons. Temperature shifts the spectrum of size at maturity in both sexes and determines female reproductive tempo, thereby altering sperm supply, egg production, and operational sex ratio. Population dynamics modulates the phenotype of receptive individuals and the direction and intensity of sexual competition over time. Fishing directed only at large males may attenuate or exacerbate some aspects of sexual conflict at primiparous mating, depending on the natural context, but otherwise it consistently promotes mating of less fecund males, reduces opportunity for female mate choice, and increases the likelihood of sperm limitation. These changes have mixed but still incompletely appreciated effects on female reproductive fitness. The long-term potential for selection against large size at maturity remains uncertain.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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