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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
29-Mar-2010

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Contact: Graeme Baldwin
graeme.baldwin@biomedcentral.com
44-203-192-2165
BioMed Central
@biomedcentral

Urine sprays during courtship send mixed messages

IMAGE: Two crayfish fight in a cloud of visualized urine.

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Walking through urine drives crayfish into an aggressive sexual frenzy. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology suggest that a urine-mediated combination of aggressive and reproductive behaviour ensures that only the strongest males get to mate.

Fiona Berry and Thomas Breithaupt from the University of Hull, UK, investigated the effects of urine-based chemical signaling on sexually active crayfish. Breithaupt said, "Our results confirm that females initiate courtship behavior; males will only attempt to mate if they receive urinary signals from the female. Females, however, send a mixed message by releasing an aphrodisiac while also acting very aggressively towards the males".

Females could profit in different ways from displaying such conflicting signals. By stimulating aggressive behaviour in males, females can gauge male size and strength and thereby ensure that only the fittest males get to fertilise their eggs. According to the researchers, "Timing seems to be key to this interaction as urine induces aggression in both sexes. Males will discontinue urine release early in the sexual encounter, which may mitigate the female's antagonism and enhance mating success".

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Notes to Editors

1. To signal or not to signal? Chemical communication by urine-borne signals mirrors sexual conflict in crayfish
Fiona C Berry and Thomas Breithaupt
BMC Biology (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1726620527310510_article.pdf?random=319929

After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication

2. Pictures of two crayfish fighting in a cloud of visualised urine are available here:

http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/urine-fight.jpg
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/urine-fight2.jpg

3. BMC Biology - the flagship biology journal of the BMC series - publishes research and methodology articles of special importance and broad interest in any area of biology and biomedical sciences. BMC Biology (ISSN 1741-7007) is covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, EMBASE, Scopus, Zoological Record, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.

4. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.



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