Intersexuality incidence, sex ratio fluctuations and intersex reproductive output as factors affecting the temporal variation of intersexed populations of the marine amphipod Echinogammarus marinus

Irene Martins, Alex T Ford, Teresa F Fernandes

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    The occurrence of intersexuality in populations of the marine amphipod Echinogammarus morinus has been related to several causes, including anthropogenic contamination, microsporiclian parasites and environmental sex determination (ESD). At the individual-level, the costs of intersexuality in E. marinus are reflected in reduced reproductive output of intersexes compared to normal specimens, The impacts of intersexuality and other reproductive disorders in nature will only be fully understood when individual-level effects are upscale to the population-level, which can be achieved through ecological models. The aim of the present work is to simulate the density variation of real populations of E. marinus with different intersexuality incidence, proportions of phenotypes and intersex female reproductive rates. To achieve that, we have incorporated empirical data obtained at the individual-level from three intersexed populations of E. marinus into a population dynamic model. The original model was calibrated and validated for a long-term stable population without intersexuality and sex ratio similar to 1. In the present version, the model includes an extra population group, intersex females, but the total sum of flow rates from juveniles to adults was kept the same as in the original model to respect the previous validation. In these circumstances, results indicate that the male-biased population is very sensitive to intersexuality, even at low incidence levels, and exhibits significant density decrease if conditions do not change. On the contrary, the two populations with a preponderance of female-biased sex ratios, low or moderate intersexuality incidence (up to an average value of 9% of the population) and with intersex reproductive rates corresponding to 80% the value of normal specimens, exhibit long-term persistence.

    The model is highly sensitive to adult female parameters (e.g. mortality), indicating that small variations on its values can significantly change population responses.

    Overall the present results suggest that, in spite the costs of intersexuality in E marinus, the temporal variation of intersexed populations depend on intersex incidence level, sex ratio fluctuations and reproductive output of intersexes. Simulations also suggest that other processes (e.g. mortality rates of normal females) may play important roles in the maintenance of populations with intersexuality. In the future, it will be crucial to improve and validate this type of models with long-term observations and monitoring of intersexed populations. (c) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)163-169
    Number of pages7
    JournalMarine Environmental Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009

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