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Mating behaviour and chemical communication in the invasive Chinese mitten crab Eriocheir sinensis

Lookup NU author(s): Leif-Matthias Herborg, Emeritus Professor Matt Bentley, Professor Tony Clare, Dr Kim Last


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Mating in the Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) was examined; in particular the nature of mating and the role of sex pheromones. A semi-lunar periodicity (16.8 days and 14.5 days, respectively) was observed in the mating frequencies in two consecutive breeding seasons (2001-2002 and 2002-2003). This semi-lunar rhythm coincided with spring tides (full and new moon), and activity peaked in November. Observation of the progression of specific behaviour types in mating and non-mating pairs revealed that pairs which would go on to complete mating progressed from fighting to mating behaviour significantly faster than non-mating pairs. These findings indicate that mate recognition occurs only after physical contact. Reproductively active pairs (ascertained from mating experiments) were then used for several bioassays aiming to assess under which conditions pheromones may be released by females. Firstly, male E. sinensis were exposed to female smell in an actograph experiment and secondly, male antennule flick rate was recorded before and after exposure to the urine of a sexually active female. In both cases no change in male E. sinensis behaviour was observed. Both experiments used females which had not had immediately prior exposure to males. However, in further experiments using water where mating had occurred, a significant response in antennule flick rate was triggered. Finally, a sponge assay was used in order to test the male attraction to a sponge injected with a water sample of varying concentrations (0.5×, 1×, 3×, 4.5×, 9×) of female smell. These samples were conditioned using a female immediately following a mating attempt. Males tried to grasp the sponge at 3× increased concentrations or higher. In conclusion, this study found no indication that E. sinensis females release a distance pheromone, but instead that mate recognition occurs after physical contact between male and female, most likely via a contact pheromone. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Herborg LM, Bentley MG, Clare AS, Last KS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology

Year: 2006

Volume: 329

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-10

ISSN (print): 0022-0981

ISSN (electronic):

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2005.08.001


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