Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 303–311 | Cite as

Copulation duration and sperm precedence in the stalk-eyed fly Cyrtodiopsis whitei (Diptera : Diopsidae)

  • Patrick D. Lorch
  • Gerald S. Wilkinson
  • Paul R. Reillo


By means of field observations and laboratory experiments on the Malaysian stalk-eyed fly Cyrtodiopsis whitei we examined the consequences of variation in copulation duration for sperm competition. In this sexually dimorphic species over 90% of all copulations occur in nocturnal aggregations with from one to four males and up to 24 females. Copulation duration observed in both the field and the laboratory exhibited a bimodal distribution with peaks at 10 and 50 s. In the field short copulations less than 30 s long occurred frequently when more than one male was present in an aggregation but most were not the direct result of male interference. Sperm counts from female spermathecae after artificial interruptions indicated sperm are not transferred during the first 40 s of a copulation. When solitary males mated up to five times in succession to virgin females, short copulations did not occur, nor was the number of sperm transferred reduced. However, short copulations did occur when we mated isolated females within 6 min of a previous copulation. By mating irradiated and non-irradiated males in reciprocal pairs we discovered that C. whitei exhibits both first-male sperm precedence and sperm mixing. More than half of the females mated first to sterile and then to fertile males failed to produce offspring. Such variation in copulation duration and sperm precedence is consistent with male placement and detection of a spermatophore that acts as a temporary mating plug. Our data suggest that those male C. whitei which successfully defend large aggregations of females reduce sperm waste and competition by preferentially transferring sperm to females that have not mated recently.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alcock J (1988) The mating system of Orthetrum calcedonicum (Brauer) with reference to variation in copulation duration (Anisoptera: Libellulidae). Odonatologica 17:1–8Google Scholar
  2. Austad SN (1984) Evolution of sperm priority patterns in spiders. In: RL Smith (ed) Sperm competition and the evolution of animal mating systems. Academic, New York, pp 223–249Google Scholar
  3. Austad SN (1982) First male sperm priority in the bowl and doily spider, Frontinella pyramitela (Walckenaer). Evolution 36:777–785Google Scholar
  4. Burkhardt D, Motte I de la (1983) How stalk-eyed flies eye stalkeyed flies: observations and measurements of the eyes of Cyrtodiopsis whitei (Diopsidae, Diptera). J Comp Physiol A 151:407–421Google Scholar
  5. Clark SJ (1988) The effects of operational sex ratio and food deprivation on copulation duration in the water strider (Gerris remigis Say). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 23:317–322Google Scholar
  6. Curtis CF (1968) Radiation sterilization and the effects of multiple mating of females in Glossina austeni. J Insect Physiol 14:1365–1380Google Scholar
  7. Dickinson JL (1986) Prolonged mating in the milkweed leaf beetle Labidomera clivicollis clivicollis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae): a test of the “sperm-loading” hypothesis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 18:331–338Google Scholar
  8. Fienberg SE (1980) The analysis of cross-classified categorical data. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. George JA (1967) Effect of mating sequence on egg-hatch from female Aedes aegypti (L.) mated with irradiated and normal males. Mosq News 27:82–86Google Scholar
  10. Gromko MH, Gilbert DG, Richmond RC (1984) Sperm transfer and use in the multiple mating system of Drosophila. In: RL Smith (ed) Sperm competition and the evolution of animal mating systems. Academic Press, New York, pp 371–426Google Scholar
  11. Gwynne DT (1984) Male mating effort, confidence of paternity, and insect sperm competition. In: RL Smith (ed) Sperm competition and the evolution of animal mating systems. Academic Press, New York, pp 117–149Google Scholar
  12. Johnson LK (1982) Sexual selection in a tropical brentid weevil. Evolution 36:251–262Google Scholar
  13. Knowlton N, Greenwell S (1984) Male sperm competition avoidance mechanisms: the influence of female interests. In: RL Smith (ed) Sperm competition and the evolution of animal mating systems. Academic Press, New York, pp 61–84Google Scholar
  14. Kotrba M (1990) Sperm transfer by spermatophore in an acalypterate fly (Diptera: Diopsidae). Entomol Gener 15:181–183Google Scholar
  15. Kotrba M (1991) Das Reproduktionssystem von Cyrtodiopsis whitei Curran 1936 (Diopsidae, Diptera) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der inneren weiblichen Geschlechtsorgane. PhD thesis, University of RegensburgGoogle Scholar
  16. Lew AC, Ball H (1980) Effect of copulation time on spermatozoan transfer of Diabrotica virgifera (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Ann Entomol Soc Am 73:360–361Google Scholar
  17. Lewis S, Austad S (1990) Sources of intraspecific variation in sperm precedence in red flour beetles. Am Nat 135:351–359Google Scholar
  18. Linley JR (1975) Sperm supply and its utilization in doubly inseminated flies, Culicoides melleus. J Insect Physiol 21:1785–1788Google Scholar
  19. McLain DK (1980) Female choice and the adaptive significance of prolonged copulation in Nezara viridula. Psyche 87:325–336Google Scholar
  20. Miller PL (1983) The duration of copulation correlates with other aspects of mating behavior in Orthetrum chrysostigma (Burmeister) (Anisoptera: Libellulidae). Odonatologica 12:227–238Google Scholar
  21. Motte I de la, Burkhardt D (1983) Portrait of an Asian stalk-eyed fly. Naturwissenschaften 70:451–461Google Scholar
  22. Parker GA (1968) The sexual behaviour of the blowfly, Protophormia terraenovae R.-D. Behaviour 32:291–308Google Scholar
  23. Parker GA (1970a) Sperm competition and its evolutionary consequences in the insects. Biol Rev Camb Phil Soc 45:525–567Google Scholar
  24. Parker GA (1970b) Sperm competition and its evolutionary effect on copula duration in the fly Scatophaga stercoraria. J Insect Physiol 16:1301–1328Google Scholar
  25. Pitnick S, Markow TA, Riedy MF (1991) Transfer of ejaculate and incorporation of male-derived substances by females in the Nannoptera species group (Diptera: Drosophilidae). Evolution 45:774–780Google Scholar
  26. Rutowski RL, Alcock J (1980) Temporal variation in male copulatory behaviour in the solitary bee Nomadopsis puellae. Behaviour 73:175–187Google Scholar
  27. Sillén-Tullberg B (1981) Prolonged copulation: a male ‘postcopulatory’ strategy in a promiscuous species, Lygaeus equestri (Heteroptera: Lygaeidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 9:283–289Google Scholar
  28. Siva-Jothy MT (1987) Variation in copulation duration and the resultant degree of sperm removal in Orthetrum cancellatum. (L.) (Libellulidae: Odonata). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 20:147–151Google Scholar
  29. Siva-Jothy MT, Tsubaki Y (1989a) Variation in copulation duration in Mnais pruinosa pruinosa. Selys (Odonata: Calopterygidae) 1. Alternative mate-securing tactics and sperm precedence. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 24:39–45Google Scholar
  30. Siva-Jothy Mt, Tsubaki Y (1989b) Variation in copulation duration in Mnais pruinosa pruinosa. Selys (Odonata: Calopterygidae) 2. Causal factors. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 25:261–267Google Scholar
  31. Sivinski J (1984) Sperm in competition. In: RL Smith (ed) Sperm competition and the evolution of animal mating systems. Academic Press, New York, pp 83–115Google Scholar
  32. Steinberg D (1985) LOGIT: A supplementary module for SYSTAT. SYSTAT, Evanston, ILGoogle Scholar
  33. Suter RB (1990) Courtship and the assessment of virginity by male bowl and doily spiders. Anim Behav 39:307–313PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Wilkinson L (1989) SYSTAT: the system for statistics. SYSTAT, Evanston, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  35. Wolf L, Waltz E, Wakeley K, Kochowski D (1989) Copulation duration and sperm competition in white faced dragonflies (Leucorrhinia intacta; Odonata: Libellulidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 24:63–68Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick D. Lorch
    • 1
  • Gerald S. Wilkinson
    • 1
  • Paul R. Reillo
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Rare Species ConservatoryLoxahatcheeUSA

Personalised recommendations