For millimeter-scale aquatic crustaceans such as copepods, ensuring reproductive success is a challenge as potential mates are often separated by hundreds of body lengths in a 3D environment. At the evolutionary scale, this led to the development of remote sensing abilities and behavioral strategies to locate, to track, and to capture a mate. Chemoreception plays a crucial role in increasing mate encounter rates through pheromone clouds and pheromone trails that can be followed over many body lengths. Empirical evidence of trail following behavior is, however, limited to laboratory experiments conducted in still water. An important open question concerns what happens in the turbulent waters of the surface ocean. We propose that copepods experience, and hence react to, a bulk-phase water pheromone concentration. Here we investigate the mating behavior of two key copepod species, Temora longicornis and Eurytemora affinis, to assess the role of background pheromone concentration and the relative roles played by males and females in mating encounters. We find that both males and females react to background pheromone concentration and exhibit both innate and acquired components in their mating strategies. The emerging swimming behaviors have stochastic properties that depend on pheromone concentration, sex, and species, are related to the level of reproductive experience of the individual tested, and significantly diverge from both the Lévy and Brownian models identified in predators searching for low- and high-density prey. Our results are consistent with an adaptation to increase mate encounter rates and hence to optimize reproductive fitness and success.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Publication status||Published - 2014|