, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 331-338

Prolonged mating in the milkweed leaf beetle Labidomera clivicollis clivicollis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae): a test of the “sperm-loading” hypothesis

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Summary

Female milkweed leaf beetles (Labidomera clivicollis clivicollis) frequently mate with more than one male, and pairs form mating associations which last for up to 42 h in the field. I tested the hypothesis that males remaining with females for long periods of time benefit by numerically overwhelming the sperm of their competitors. Male L.c.clivicollis copulated intermittently with females throughout an 11 hour period in the laboratory. When virgin females were allowed a single copulation, 94.3% of the sperm they received were located in the spermatheca immediately afterward. Males were not sperm-depleted, for they had large numbers of sperm available after one copulation (mean=230,000±43,200); the maximal number of sperm a male transferred to a female in 24 h was 30,500. There was a positive linear relationship between the number of sperm transferred and time up to 24 h after mounting (r 2=0.178, P<0.003). These data suggest that males transfer increasing numbers of sperm throughout a 24-h-period. Mating duration was the most important determinant of paternity when females were placed with one male for 24 h and another male for 6 hours. Females whose first matings were longer showed first male sperm predominance (as determined by starch-gel electrophoresis), while females whose second matings were longer showed last male sperm predominance. In view of these data, it is puzzling that males do not inseminate with large numbers of sperm immediately after mounting the female. It is possible that female refractory behaviors make insemination difficult and favor prolonged mating by male milkweed leaf beetles.