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Integr Comp Biol. 2006 Aug;46(4):419-29. doi: 10.1093/icb/icj040. Epub 2006 May 10.

Tales of two snails: sexual selection and sexual conflict in Lymnaea stagnalis and Helix aspersa.

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Department of Animal Ecology, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Sexual selection and sexual conflict have been shown to play key roles in the evolution of species with separate sexes. Experimental evidence is accumulating that this is also true for simultaneous hermaphrodites. For example, many species of land snails forcefully stab their mating partners with love darts. In the brown garden snail (Helix aspersa, now called Cantareus asperses), this dart increases sperm storage and paternity, probably via the transfer of an allohormone that inhibits sperm digestion. A recent interspecies comparison of dart-possessing land snails revealed coevolution between darts and spermatophore-receiving organs that is consistent with counteradaptation against an allohormonal manipulation. The great pond snail (Lymnaea stagnalis) seems to use a seminal product to manipulate its partner and mates in the male role when enough seminal fluid is available in the prostate gland. Receipt of semen not only initiates egg laying in virgin animals, but also feminizes the mating partner later in life. These increases in the female function have been shown to go at the expense of growth and seminal fluid production of the sperm recipient. Although in Helix, and probably also Lymnaea, the sperm donor benefits from the induced changes through increased fertilization success, the sperm recipient may experience injury, imposed reallocation of resources, and altered sperm storage. These findings support the existence of sexual conflict in simultaneously hermaphroditic snails, and its importance for the evolution of mating behaviors and reproductive morphologies is discussed.


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