Eggs released into the water by mussels for fertilisation send out a chemical message that tells sperm they are a compatible mate, say researchers.
Evolutionary biologist Dr Jonathan Evans, from University of Western Australia, and colleagues, report their findings today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“The business of finding an egg is not as straight forward as you think it would be,” says Evans.
Mussels, like other marine invertebrates that are not mobile, release eggs and sperm into the water and these gametes must then find each other.
“These things are fixed to a rock. Their sperm and eggs go into a turbulent marine environment and they need some kind of clever mechanism to find each other,” says Evans.
It is known that many species release chemical clues to attract sperm to fertilise them - a process known as ‘sperm chemotaxis’.