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Control of social monogamy through aggression in a hermaphroditic shrimp

Janine WY Wong12* and Nico K Michiels1

Author Affiliations

1 Animal Evolutionary Ecology, Department for Biology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany

2 Zoological Institute, Evolutionary Biology, University of Basel, Vesalgasse 1, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

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Frontiers in Zoology 2011, 8:30  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-8-30

Published: 11 November 2011



Sex allocation theory predicts that in small mating groups simultaneous hermaphroditism is the optimal form of gender expression. Under these conditions, male allocation is predicted to be very low and overall per-capita reproductive output maximal. This is particularly true for individuals that live in pairs, but monogamy is highly susceptible to cheating by both partners. However, certain conditions favour social monogamy in hermaphrodites. This study addresses the influence of group size on group stability and moulting cycles in singles, pairs, triplets and quartets of the socially monogamous shrimp Lysmata amboinensis, a protandric simultaneous hermaphrodite.


The effect of group size was very strong: Exactly one individual in each triplet and exactly two individuals in each quartet were killed in aggressive interactions, resulting in group sizes of two individuals. All killed individuals had just moulted. No mortality occurred in single and pair treatments. The number of moults in the surviving shrimp increased significantly after changing from triplets and quartets to pairs.


Social monogamy in L. amboinensis is reinforced by aggressive expulsion of supernumerous individuals. We suggest that the high risk of mortality in triplets and quartets results in suppression of moulting in groups larger than two individuals and that the feeding ecology of L. amboinensis favours social monogamy.

hermaphrodite; aggression; elimination; moult; monogamy; pair stability; group size; food competition