How Do Shellfish Have Sex?

Lina asks: How do shellfish have sex?

Now You KnowShellfishly? *crickets*

They don’t have any trendy, happening nightclubs. They don’t have flowers, jewelry, or boxes of chocolates.  They have no Viagra, stiff drinks, or cheesy pickup lines. But that doesn’t mean shellfish aren’t getting lucky.  Oysters, mussels, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and thousands of other varieties of shellfish have their own unique mating techniques.  I’ll cover a few of the more interesting here.

Take lobsters. The females are the sexual aggressor here as the male lobsters are hard to convince to stop their fighting with one another and do some mating.  Female lobsters will sometimes even queue up outside of the dominant male lobsters’ den to get their turn.

When the female lobster is ready for action (and ready to molt), she seeks out the dominate male’s den.  Once she’s managed to get up to the entrance, she releases a pheromone into the den of the male. This is the only way to get the dominant male more interested in making some love rather than fighting with the other males.

He then comes out of his bachelor pad aggressively, ready to attack pretty much any lobsters around, but she continues to waft her lady smell in his face and he’ll generally calm himself, though he may fight with her a bit, just because that’s what he does.  At some point during the fight, she’ll give up and let him win.

Now that he feels especially manly, the female will start stroking his head with her claws and the two will enter his den.

The female then strips naked (molts) and the male gently turns her over for mating… or eating her.  At this point, he may do either one depending on his mood.  As she’s gotten rid of her shell, she’s pretty much completely at his mercy here.  Assuming the male decided to mate, the female is allowed to stay in the male’s den under his protection for about a week until her new shell hardens. (No word on whether he ever calls again; probably not as once he’s done with her, he’ll allow the next lady into his den, assuming she’s adequately drugged him up with her lady smell).  If he happens to have eaten the female, the next female will try her luck, wafting her lady smell at him.  I mean, his belly’s full now, might as well now try to appeal to his other bodily needs.

Crabs have a similar ritual (the female crab also molts before mating), but this time the male has to do the impressing.  The molting here is preceded by a scene reminiscent of a frat party. The male tries to impress the female by standing on the tips of his walking legs and rocking from side to side. (Researchers have yet to determine whether he’s wearing a toga.)  Even if the female likes what she sees and accepts the invitation, she still plays hard to get for a bit. The male then carries the female around for a few days, no doubt showing how strong he is, before she molts.  They then mate- brace yourself- for a few hours. When they are finished, the male often cradles the female until her new shell hardens. (Who says all men are pigs?)

As with crabs and lobsters, shrimp mate just after the female molts. When it comes to going for a roll in the seaweed, shrimp appear to be creatures of habit- not unlike some human couples; shrimp generally mate three times a year (in the spring, summer, and winter).

The mating habits of mussels, clams, and oysters are downright wacky. With all three varieties, an adult male shoots sperm into the water hoping to hit a lady. The female has thousands of eggs in her gills. She catches all the sperm she can and then begins fertilization.  Kinky…

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