, Volume 98, Issue 10, pp 855-862

A contact anti-aphrodisiac pheromone supplied by the spermatophore in the rove beetle Aleochara curtula: mode of transfer and evolutionary significance

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Abstract

By reducing the attractiveness of their mating partner via an anti-aphrodisiac pheromone, males can prevent a remating of the female and thus reduce the risk of sperm competition. For females, the main benefit from allowing the chemical manipulation of their attractiveness is probably the avoidance of sexual harassments from rival males. While mating plugs generally constitute a physical barrier which hinders male mating attempts, chemical manipulations must trustfully inform the responding male of the female’s reluctance to mate; otherwise, it would be beneficial to ignore the repellent information. In our experiments, males of the polyandrous rove beetle Aleochara curtula chemically manipulated the attractiveness of their mating partner. Coincident with the deposition of a spermatophore into the female genital chamber, an anti-aphrodisiac pheromone was transferred and readily spread onto the female surface, where it was subsequently perceived by rival males via parameres, the claspers of the male genitalia. Males aborted contact with the mated female to avoid further time- and energy-consuming elements of the mating sequence. The chemical mode of action was demonstrated inter alia by spicing virgin females with spermatophore extracts. The action of the anti-aphrodisiac correlated with the persistence of the spermatophore in the female genital chamber and corresponded to the length of stay of the mated female at a carcass, where the density of rival males is highest. The ensuing benefits for all three parties involved in this communication system, which render this post-copulatory mate guarding strategy evolutionary stable, are discussed.

Communicated by: Sven Thatje