The Reported Occurrence of Hermaphroditism in the Yellowfoot Limpet (Cellana sandwicensis Pease, 1981) - Abstract
The yellowfoot limpet Cellana sandwicensis, ‘opihi ‘alinalina, is a significant cultural resource and seafood for Hawaiians. With wild stocks greatly depleted and under significant commercial pressures, research efforts are focused on understanding their reproductive biology to improve management and ensure survival of this species. During spawning season, wild aquaculture-housed limpets were examined on a monthly basis for sexual maturation, via gonadosomatic index and histological examination. Spawn events, which coincided with peak maturation, were observed. Furthermore, a single specimen was observed to be a hermaphrodite. While hermaphroditism has been a documented reproduction strategy for other Palletid spp., it has never been documented in any of the Hawaiian limpets (Cellana spp.). Previously, Cellana sandwicensis was assumed to be gonochoristic with males and females. And despite sex ratios shifting across time and geographic location, no clear biological explanation existed for this phenomenon. From this finding, we propose that the yellowfoot limpet may be a sequential hermaphrodite, which has, until now, gone undetected. This hermaphrodite, although carrying both gonads simultaneously, was most likely caught at an inter-sex level. It is then plausible to consider environmental factors (i.e. presence of conspecifics) playing a role in sex determination for this species. In the future, defining sex ratios at various class sizes, time points, and geographic locations will improve our understanding of reproductive biology for yellow foot limpets. Moreover, monitoring individuals across multiple spawning events/seasons will clarify any speculation regarding their ability/inability to switch sexes.