Sexual dimorphisms in the dermal denticles of thelesser-spotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula (Linnaeus, 1758)

Neil Crooks, Adrian C. Love, Lucy Babey, Colin Waring

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Abstract

The dermal layers of several elasmobranch species have been shown to be sexually dimorphic. Generally, when this occurs the females have thicker dermal layers compared to those of males. This sexual dimorphism has been suggested to occur as a response to male biting during mating. Although male biting as a copulatory behaviour in Scyliorhinus canicula has been widely speculated to occur, only relatively recently has this behaviour been observed. Male S. canicula use their mouths to bite the female’s pectoral and caudal fins as part of their pre-copulatory behaviour and to grasp females during copulation. Previous work has shown that female S. canicula have a thicker epidermis compared to that of males. The structure of the dermal denticles in females may also differ from that of males in order to protect against male biting or to provide a greater degree of friction in order to allow the male more purchase. This study reveals that the length, width and density of the dermal denticles of mature male and female S. canicula are sexually dimorphic across the integument in areas where males have been observed to bite and wrap themselves around females (pectoral fin, area posterior to the pectoral fin, caudal fin, and pelvic girdle). No significant differences in the dermal denticle dimensions were found in other body areas examined (head, dorsal skin and caudal peduncle). Sexually dimorphic dermal denticles in mature S. canicula could be a response to male biting/ wrapping as part of the copulatory process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e76887
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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