, Volume 138, Issue 1, pp 127-134
Date: 24 Oct 2003

High sexual signalling rates of young individuals predict extended life span in male Mediterranean fruit flies

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In a laboratory study, we monitored the lifetime sexual signalling (advertisement) of wild male Mediterranean fruit flies, and we tested the hypothesis that high lifetime intensity of sexual signalling indicates high survival probabilities. Almost all males exhibited signalling and individual signalling rates were highly variable from the beginning of the adults’ maturity and throughout their life span (average life span 62.3 days). Sexual signalling rates after day 10 (peak maturity) were consistently high until about 1 week before death. There was a positive relationship between daily signalling rates and life span, and an increase in signalling level by one unit over all times was associated with an approximately 50% decrease in mortality rate. Signalling rates early in adult life (day 6–20) were higher in the longest-lived than in the shortest-lived flies. These results support the hypothesis that intense sexual signalling indicates longer life span. We discuss the importance of age-specific behavioural studies for understanding the evolution of male life histories.