Embryo retrieval and kin recognition in an amphipod (Crustacea)

Lynsey Patterson, J.T.A. Dick, Robert Elwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Active maternal care directed towards embryos within the brood pouch has been identified in amphipod crustaceans from harsh aquatic environments. This involves 'curl' and 'stretch' components and brood flushing that alters in distinct ways in response to developmental and environmental cues. However, a cost of active brood care in crustaceans is the susceptibility to embryo loss, this being further predisposed by the structure of the amphipod brood pouch. We found embryo retrieval by females of the rock-pool amphipod Apherusa jurinei, whereby females inserted experimentally offered embryos into their brood pouches. Females early in brood development retrieved embryos to a greater degree than both nonovigerous and later stage females. In this experiment, all offered embryos were from other females, indicating a motivation to retrieve embryos that often overrides any kin recognition. In a second experiment, we found kin discrimination, with both early stage and late stage females retrieving more of their own embryos than those from other females. Recognition was not simply of embryos of similar developmental stages. There were high levels of embryo cannibalism in both experiments, but females were significantly less likely to consume their own compared to foreign embryos. We thus further show that 'lower' crustaceans such as amphipods engage in elaborate active maternal care including kin recognition and discrimination. Their maternal behaviour appears to balance the costs and benefits of embryo retrieval, minimizing fitness reductions due to embryo loss and adoption of foreign embryos. (C) 2008 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-722
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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