Development of indices for nonsacrificial sexing of imposex-affected Hexaplex (Trunculariopsis) Trunculus (Gastropoda: Muricidae)

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The muricid Hexaplex (Trunculariopsis) trunculus lacks external sexual dimorphism and is highly affected by imposex, which further complicates its sexual identification. In this context, the aim of this study was to develop sexual indices based on the dimensions of male and imposex-affected female penis, which could constitute a useful, simple and nonsacrificial tool for sexing live specimens of T. trunculus. The adoption of sexual indices consisting of penis dimensions of both sexes relative to individual size revealed a high accuracy in the sexual identification of sacrificed specimens (>95% correct sexing). Additionally, multivariate discriminant analysis allowed correct sexing of 98.8% of the original 1053 sacrificed individuals, with accurate sexual identification being higher for males (99.5%) than for imposex-affected females (97.7%). An anaesthetization experiment was performed to investigate the effects produced by the anaesthetic (MgCl2) on penis measurements, to test this nonsacrificial approach and to validate the previously developed sexual indices. The anaesthetic provoked an expected enlargement in penis dimensions but, despite this side effect, the sexual indices developed for sacrificed specimens were still highly successful in sexing anaesthetized T. trunculus (generally more than 95% correct sexual identification). The practical application and some limitations of developing and employing this kind of index for the sexual identification of T. trunculus and other imposex-affected gastropod species are discussed.

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