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Use of the dart apparatus by the hermaphroditic land snail Polymita muscarum (Lea, 1834)

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image of Animal Biology

Many species of pulmonate land snails are equipped with one or more so-called "love darts". Even though the number and shape of these calcareous darts vary considerably between species, dart use has only been investigated in very few species. Here, we redescribe the mating behaviour of Polymita muscarum because previous reports did not include the use of the dart apparatus. Mating in this hermaphroditic land snail can be divided into three stages: courtship, copulation and post-copulatory activity. During courtship, full eversion of the genital atrium is reached, thus exposing the sensitive zone, genital lobes and dart apparatus. We observed that P. muscarum pushes the everted dart apparatus repeatedly onto different parts of the partner's body and does not lose its dart after stabbing. Dissected specimens had a single, slender dart with a round base, a broad corona and a circular cross-section. We propose that the morphology of P. muscarum 's dart is consistent with the idea of simple darts needing to be stabbed more often in order to increase the transfer of mucus, which contains a biologically active substance (i.e. allohormone) that enhances the chances of paternity. Besides adding to the growing diversity in the use of love darts in land snails, these findings contribute to the understanding of the evolution of this peculiar reproductive act.

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad de Oriente, Ave. Patricio Lumumba, Santiago de Cuba 90500, Cuba; 2: Institute of Ecological Science, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


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