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Effects of mating, breeding system and parasites on reproduction in hermaphrodites: pulmonate gastropods (Mollusca)

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There are approximately 20 000 pulmonate gastropod species that are all hermaphroditic and (with a few exceptions) can act in both (i.e., male and female) sexual roles. Life history traits such as growth (rate), age at first reproduction, fecundity, fertility, future survival and offspring survival are highly variable within pulmonate species, even among individuals of the same population. Here, we review some aspects of reproduction (availability of partners, size-dependent sex allocation, courtship, (multiple) mating, sperm longevity/viability, social facilitation), breeding system (self-fertilisation, outcrossing or mixed) and parasitism that may influence an individual's reproductive success and therefore account for part of the intraspecific variation in life history traits. A literature study showed that fecundity, fertility and/or growth are significantly affected by: i) the mating group size through changes in interference competition (e.g., crowding), breeding system and sex allocation; ii) individual body size with larger individuals producing more eggs than smaller individuals; iii) mating whereby female fitness may be positively or negatively affected; iv) social facilitation whereby female fitness is positively affected by the presence of conspecifics; v) the breeding system including the phenomena of inbreeding and outbreeding depression; and vi) parasites that may suppress or stimulate reproduction, especially egg-laying, in parasitised individuals. Moreover, multiple mating and multiple paternity seem very common in pulmonates. Interestingly, several of the above-mentioned aspects seem to interact or even act synergetically. Although many aspects of life history variation in pulmonate gastropods are still poorly understood which makes it difficult to draw general conclusions, pulmonates offer ample opportunities to study the evolution of major topics in evolution and life history strategies. Indeed, there is a growing number of basommatophoran and stylommatophoran model species, experimental setups and molecular, histological and histochemical techniques that are used to test current hypothesis on sex allocation, sexual selection (sexual conflict, sperm competition or cryptic female choice), the evolution of breeding systems and host-parasite interactions which will yield much information for the study of life history strategies as well.

Affiliations: 1: Evolutionary Biology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerp, Belgium; 2: Evolutionary Biology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerp, Belgium; Department of Invertebrates, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Vautierstraat 29, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium


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