Alexandria Warneke is a masters student at San Diego State University. You may remember that Alex had a Scifund project asking for funds to support her research in chemical ecology. I so was impressed with Alex video dropping made science rhymes over the beat of Fresh Prince of Bel Air that I asked her to contribute some guests posts to DSN. Her second post is below.
…like a good pee to the face.
For some girls it’s as easy as chocolate and roses. For others you might have to work a bit harder, break into your inner culinary genius, and splurge on a candle or two. However, for certain females of the spineless variety, nothing gets them more riled up than getting a great big whiff of bittersweet male excrement.
Sound gross? Well it is, but that’s the life of many crustaceans, lobsters in particular.
Finding a suitable partner in the big blue can be a relatively difficult task. Sites like “invertharmony” and “plentyoffish.com” just don’t exist for all the single lady lobsters out there. (Though apparently the latter is a real thing. Link here: POF.com) Thus, when it comes to needing sexy time and finding a fine, fit friend to populate the species, these ladies rely on the next best thing, their chemosenses.
Male American lobsters, Homarus americanus, will release urine from small ducts, called nephropores, positioned on the fronts of their faces. This pheromone-infested pee has all sorts of reliable information for lady lobsters to locate and evaluate the reproductive quality of their male prospects. Originally, researchers though it was the other way around and that males were the one’s doing the choosing. Let’s be honest with ourselves though…even if we let them think they have the power…it is always “ladies choice.”
Sniffing out a strong, dominant male is essential. Not only does this ensure the future success of the lady lobster’s prodigy, but it can also be beneficial for her protection. Once she has made her pee-based choice, the lady lobster will molt and shed her hard shell, leaving her soft, vulnerable, and ready to get jiggy with it. After the deed is done, the male will protect the love nest until the lady lobster has hardened and is back on her feet.
This type of odorous courtship communication is quite complex in this species and other crusties (crabs, crawdaddies, etc.). Researchers speculate that successful mating is most likely based on a variety of chemical signals produced by both the males and the females. However, one thing is relatively certain…it all starts with the pee in the face.
For all the guys out there…just a fair warning for your Valentine’s Day escapades…I don’t know if this works on the ladies at the bar … unless you’re R.Kelly, I wouldn’t try this at home.
Breithaupt, Thomas., Lindstrom, Daniel P., and Atema, Jelle. Urine release in freely moving atheterised lobsters (Homarus americanus) with reference to feeding and social activities. The Journal of Experimental Biology 202 (1999): 837-844.
Bushmann, Paul J. and Atema, Jelle. Chemically mediated mate location and evaluation in the lobster, Homarus americanus. Journal of Chemical Ecology 26, 4 (2000): 883-889.
Cowan, Diane F. The role of olfaction in courtship behavior of the American lobster Homarus americanus. Biology Bulletin 181 (1991): 402-407.