Swinging both ways

Saturday 15 July 2000

It is now a well-known fact that many fish and other aquatic creatures change their sex during the course of their lives. But the peppermint shrimps are different: even after changing their sex, they continue to retain the features and functions of both the male and female. These shrimps dwell in the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. They begin their lives as males. But later most change to females. This change is sudden and comes with a twist. "These 'females' retain their male ducts, produce sperm, and fertilise other female phase shrimps even when incubating their own embryos," says Raymond T Bauer, a biologist with the University of Louisiana, USA. Bauer calls them as simultaneous hermaphrodites ( National Geographic, Vol 197, No 3).

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