, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 149-156
Date: 03 Aug 2010

Male genital length and mating status differentially affect mating behaviour in an earwig

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Phenotypic variation in male genitalia may affect copulation behaviour, which can have important fitness consequences for males. Male genitalia commonly possess traits that increase male control over copulation, but in species where females control mating, a poor functional understanding often prevents insight into the processes responsible for such effects. Here, I investigate the effect of male genital length on copulation behaviour in the earwig Euborellia brunneri, where both sexes exhibit extremely elongated genitalia that correspond in shape. This model system is particularly suitable because pairs mate repeatedly and females can limit both the number and duration of copulations. I used both virgin and mated males and females in a double-mating design because longer male genitalia confer benefits in sperm competition. Consistent with a greater predicted male mating effort in mated females, the duration of individual copulations increased, but this traded off against mating frequency as cumulative mating duration remained unchanged. In contrast, male genital length increased both individual and cumulative mating duration, regardless of mating status. This difference suggests that, while males may modify copulation duration in response to mating status, females facultatively adjust mating frequency to prevent mating excessively or express preferences for increased male genital length. Notably, this study demonstrates that male genital phenotypes that are successful in sperm competition also enjoy female-mediated mating benefits.

Communicated by N. Wedell