Monogamy in a Hyper-Symbiotic Shrimp

PLoS One. 2016 Mar 2;11(3):e0149797. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149797. eCollection 2016.


Theory predicts that monogamy is adaptive in resource-specialist symbiotic crustaceans inhabiting relatively small and morphologically simple hosts in tropical environments where predation risk away from hosts is high. We tested this prediction in Pontonia manningi, a hyper-symbiotic shrimp that dwells in the mantle cavity of the Atlantic winged oyster Pteria colymbus that, in turn, infects gorgonians from the genus Pseudopterogorgia in the Caribbean Sea. In agreement with theory, P. manningi were found dwelling as heterosexual pairs in oysters more frequently than expected by chance alone. Males and females also inhabited the same host individual independent of the female gravid condition or of the developmental stage of brooded embryos. While the observations above argue in favor of monogamy in P. manningi, there is evidence to suggest that males of the studied species are moderately promiscuous. That females found living solitary in oysters most often brooded embryos, and that males allocated more to weaponry (major claw size) than females at any given size suggest that males might be roaming among host individuals in search of and, fighting for, receptive females. All available information depicts a rather complex mating system in P. manningi: primarily monogamous but with moderately promiscuous males.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Decapoda / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Ostreidae / physiology
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Symbiosis / physiology*

Grants and funding

This study was funded by start up money from Clemson University to JAB.