The patterns of sex change and spatial distribution in an intertidal holothurian, Polycheira rufescens (Chiridotidae; Echinodermata), were investigated on a stony beach in Amakusa, western Kyushu. Field caging experiments revealed that some individuals of P. rufescens underwent a sequential sex change from male to female via hermaphrodite stages and back to male again within a single reproductive season. The sex ratio of the population gradually changed from male dominance at first to equal proportions of males and females as the reproductive season progressed. Toward the end of the reproductive season, immature or spent individuals increased in proportion. Stone size appeared to be an important factor affecting the occurrence of P. rufescens individuals on a stony beach. Analysis of spatial distribution by means of Morisita's index of dispersion and nearest neighbor distances indicated that (i) males showed a slightly stronger tendency to aggregate than females, while females had a tendency toward uniform distribution; (ii) females tended to attract males, as shown by relatively short female-to-male distances; and (iii) there was a substantial variation in male-to-female distances, such that some males were positioned close to females while others were not. It may be suggested that spatial distribution of P. rufescens individuals during the reproductive period is partly dictated by the differential needs of individuals of different sexual states.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)