Male mate choice in a sexually cannibalistic species: male escapes from hungry females in the praying mantid Tenodera angustipennis
While competing males and choosy females may be common in animal mating systems, male choice can evolve under certain conditions. Sexual cannibalism is such a condition because of the high mortality risk for males. In mantids, female body condition is associated with male mate preference, with fat females preferred, due to at least two reasons: females in poor nutritional condition are likely to attack and predate males, and fat females can potentially increase the number of offspring. Thus, the risk of cannibalism and female fecundity can influence male mating behavior. In this study, we attempted to separate these factors by using the praying mantid Tenodera angustipennis to examine whether male preference for fat female mantids was based on avoiding sexual cannibalism (cannibalism avoidance hypothesis) or preference for female fecundity (fecundity preference hypothesis). The feeding regimes were experimentally manipulated to discriminate between the effects of female fecundity and female hunger status on male and female mating behaviors. We found that recently starved females more frequently locomoted toward the male, and that male abdominal bending was less intensive and escape was sooner from recently starved females. These female and male behavioral responses to female hunger condition may reveal male avoidance of dangerous females in this mantid.