White Rose University Consortium logo
University of Leeds logo University of Sheffield logo York University logo

Female impersonation as an alternative reproductive strategy in giant cuttlefish

Norman, M.D., Finn, J. and Tregenza, T. (1999) Female impersonation as an alternative reproductive strategy in giant cuttlefish. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B: Biological Sciences, 266 (1426). p. 1347. ISSN 1471-2954

Available under licence : See the attached licence file.

Download (229Kb)


Out of all the animals, cephalopods possess an unrivalled ability to change their shape and body patterns. Our observations of giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama) suggest this ability has allowed them to evolve alternative mating strategies in which males can switch between the appearance of a female and that of a male in order to foil the guarding attempts of larger males. At a mass breeding aggregation in South Australia, we repeatedly observed single small males accompanying mating pairs. While doing so, the small male assumed the body shape and patterns of a female. Such males were never attacked by the larger mate-guarding male. On more than 20 occasions, when the larger male was distracted by another male intruder, these small males, previously indistinguishable from a female, were observed to change body pattern and behaviour to that of a male in mating display. These small males then attempted to mate with the female, often with success. This potential for dynamic sexual mimicry may have played a part in driving the evolution of the remarkable powers of colour and shape transformation which characterize the cephalopods.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 1999 The Royal Society
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Biological Sciences (Leeds) > Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2006
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2014 06:53
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1098/rspb.1999.0786
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/92

Actions (repository staff only: login required)