Environmental influences on crustacean sex determination and reproduction: environmental sex determination, parasitism and pollution

Alison Dunn, Thierry Rigaud, Alex Ford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter reviews the influences of environmental factors on sex determination, sex ratios, and reproductive behavior in the Crustacea, focusing in particular on amphipod and isopod examples. A range of abiotic and biotic environmental factors influence reproduction in Crustacea, including temperature, day length, pollutants, and parasites. Individual crustaceans may benefit from these environmental influences, but in other cases, reproductive biology responses to biotic and abiotic environments may be detrimental to individual fitness. Environmental Sex Determination (ESD) falls into the former category. ESD is an adaptive mechanism of sex determination that is rare, but has evolved in diverse taxa. Evidence from gammarid amphipods is used to explore the evolution of ESD in response to a patchy environment. While ESD is an adaptive mechanism of sex determination, the impact of other environmental factors can be very costly. Parasitic castrators can lead to a reduction or total cessation of reproduction in crustacean hosts, driving population declines. In contrast, parasitic feminizers convert male hosts into females, enhancing maternal parasite transmission but also leading to sex ratio distortion in the host population. The chapter discusses parasite-host coevolutionary conflict and reviews evidence that selection on the host in response to parasitic sex ratio distortion has led to altered mate choice in amphipods, and to the evolution of a novel system of sex determination in isopods. Human-induced environmental influences can also be seen in Crustacea, and the chapter discusses how parasites, ESD, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals can each affect sex determination and lead to abnormal intersex phenotypes. It ends by highlighting areas for future research on the diverse world of crustacean reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReproductive Biology
EditorsRicky Cothran, Martin Thiel
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)9780197538272
ISBN (Print)9780190688554
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2020

Publication series

NameThe Natural History of the Crustacea
PublisherUniversity of Oxford Press


  • environmental sex determination (ESD)
  • sex determination in amphipods
  • parasitic castration
  • parasitic feminizers
  • parasite-host coevolutionary conflict
  • human-induced environmental influences

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