Protandric hermaphroditism, the sequential change from male to female, has been reported in several superfamilies of prosobranch gastropods including the Fissurellacea, Patellacea, Calyptraeacea, and Eulimacea (Webber, 1977). It is most common in members of the Calyptraeacea and the Patellacea. In the Calyptraeacea changes in sex are readily followed by observing copulative structures (Coe, 1944). Because patellacean limpets are predominantly broadcast spawners with external fertilization, external characters that can be used to determine the sex of individuals are rare. Hence, previous to this report the occurrence of protandry in most patellacean limpets has been based primarily on sexual dimorphism in size; the smaller size classes being made up of male individuals and the larger size classes of female individuals (Willcox, 1898; Orton, 1920, 1928; Orton, Southward & Dodd, 1956; Dodd, 1956; Branch, 1974). However, given this type of data it is often difficult to assess whether the observed sexual dimorphism is indicative of protandry or merely a result of differential growth and/or survival. The presence of simultaneous hermaphrodites in the intermediate size classes, as evidence of protandry is of limited value because simultaneous hermaphrodites occur sporadically in patellaceans that do not show a sexual dimorphism in size (Dodd, 1956; Branch, 1974). The only unambiguous way of proving the existance of protandry in patellacean limpets is the direct monitoring of gonadal changes in individuals through time. We report here the first direct observations of protandric hermaphroditism in a patellacean limpet.
Lottia gigantea Sowerby, 1834 is a large (100 + mm), territorial, intertidal limpet that ranges from northern California to central Baja California, Mexico (Stimson, 1970).