Males of the hermit crab Pagurus filholi perform assessment behavior toward females, as a preliminary step of precopulatory guarding, during the reproductive season. It is known that such behavior is elicited by female sex pheromones, but the compounds involved have never been characterized in this species. Several experiments were conducted to develop a reliable bioassay along with purification procedures to identify potential compounds with pheromonal activity in Pagurus filholi. We developed a bioassay protocol to assess pheromonal activity by using an empty shell with cotton containing either artificial seawater (control) or test water. We measured and compared the time duration of male assessment behavior toward each shell if the test water contained female sex pheromones. Ultra-filtering of seawater samples potentially containing pheromones showed that the compound was <1 kDa in molecular weight. Males showed precopulatory assessment behavior toward “female conditioned” water samples treated with open column purification and eluted with MeOH, suggesting that compounds triggering male behavior were low polar molecules. Molecules with pheromonal activity were not volatile after freeze drying, effective even after heating to 90 °C, and remained active in seawater at 12 °C even after 6 days from sample collection, which suggests a rather stable characteristic of the female sex pheromones of this species.
Journal of Ethology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 31, 2017
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