, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 937-946

Elucidating the function of ejaculate expulsion and consumption after copulation by female Euxesta bilimeki

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Abstract

Postcopulatory processes can influence male reproductive success in several animal species. Females can use different mechanisms to bias male paternity after copulation. One of such mechanisms consists in expelling all or part of the ejaculate after copulation. Euxesta bilimeki is an Ulidiid fly whose females not only frequently expel ejaculates after mating but also consume the ejaculate after expulsion. In order to understand the significance of these behaviors we examined video recordings of courtship, copulatory, and postcopulatory behaviours. The presence of sperm in female storage organs was confirmed after mating with males of different sizes and was correlated with duration of courtship, copulation, and the period from the end of copulation to ejaculate expulsion. The effect of ejaculate consumption on female fitness (fecundity and longevity) was compared among females held under different dietary treatments: a rich diet consisting of protein, sugar and water, an intermediate diet composed of sugar and water, a poor diet of only water and females that were completely deprived of food and water. All of the observed females expelled ejaculates after mating. The probability of storing sperm in the two spermathecae and the ventral receptacle was correlated with interactions between the duration of all behaviours examined and male size. Except for starved females, who lived longer when allowed to consume ejaculates, ejaculate consumption had no effect on fitness. Results suggest that females can bias sperm storage according to male mating effort, while the consumed ejaculate had some nutritional value only evident when females were completely starved.

Communicated by N. Wedell