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Cuttlefish sneaker males succeed in fathering eggs

January 20, 2005

In a Brief Communication in the January 20, 2005 Nature, Roger Hanlon and colleagues describe how nerdy male giant Australian cuttlefish, (Sepia apama) trick their masculine competitors by transiently assuming a feminine appearance in order to reach the closely guarded female—and then successfully fertilize her. This ‘sneak-guard’ behaviour by some animals is well-known, but it has not previously been clear whether it results in fertilization by the sneaker male. Now the researchers have settled the question by subjecting the laid eggs to DNA paternity testing, conclusively demonstrating that this ‘cross-dressing’ strategy is worthwhile.

Abstract © 2005 Nature

“Transient sexual mimicry leads to fertilization,” Roger T. Hanlon, Marié-Jose Naud, Paul W. Shaw, Jon N. Havenhand, Nature, January 20, 2005

Roger Hanlon, Marine Resources Center, Woods Hole, MA