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Stomatopod Images

Photograph by Valerie Taylor

Odontodactylus with Egg Mass!

In stomatopod breeding pairs, the male stands guard over the female before spawning, and only leaves to find another cavity when the female spawns. The female then broods the eggs for around three weeks, and stands guard herself over the larvae for another week after they hatch. The search for a new home by the male means that there is a possibility that he might come across the same female during this time, and by forcing her out and taking over the cavity, ensure the destruction of his own eggs or larvae.

Through a carefully controlled series of experiments, Caldwell revealed that both the male and female refrained from initiating or escalating aggressive behavior against one another even after two weeks of separation. However, both were very aggressive against other male and female stomatopods. The identification seemed to be facilitated by a form of maxilliped behavior in the female, whereby she "fanned" water currents (presumably containing chemical signals about herself) out the cavity and towards the approaching intruder. This showed that stomatopods seem to be able to differentiate and recognize individuals after prolonged periods of time, something that is very unusual in invertebrates.

The female is very aggressive towards intruding stomatopods at this time, because if it is driven out of its burrow by competing mantis shrimps it will lose the eggs. In one film I watched, a female with eggs was evicted from its lair by a competitor.

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