Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

Moulting and mating in Lepeophtheirus pectoralis (Copepoda: Caligidae)

Morten Anstensruda1

a1 Section of Marine Zoology and Chemistry, Biological Institute, University of Oslo, PO Box 1064, Blindern, N-0316 Oslo 3, Norway


Prior to moulting, the preadult Lepeophtheirus pectoralis produces a temporary frontal filament which attaches the animal to the surface of the host during ecdysis. This filament is extruded from a frontal organ previously thought to have a chemoreceptory function. During ecdysis the exuvium splits at the anterior margin and is shed posteriorly by contractions of the body. After hardening of the exoskeleton the copepod detaches itself from the frontal filament and is free-living on the host during intermoult. Males in precopula position hold on to the dorsal side of the female, with the second antennae grasping the anterior end of the female's genital complex. During the ecdysis of the female, most males release their hold on the female, and are usually found close to her on the host. Copulation occurs between an adult male and an adult female with a hardened exoskeleton. In the copula position the male holds on to the female's genital complex with the second antennae, but now on the ventral side of the female. Two spermatophores are extruded and then transferred simultaneously to the female with the aid of the second pair of swimming legs. Tubes originating from the spermatophores connect them to the orifices of the receptaculum seminis. These tubes seem to grow out of the spermatophores after expulsion. After copulation, the male retains a precopula position before releasing the female. No agonistic behaviour has been observed between a precopulating/copulating male and additional males. However, during the ecdysis of the female, a new male may take over the female, but mating does not seem to be assortative for size in Lepeophtheirus pectoralis.