Why do males choose heterospecific females in the red spider mite?
In some species, males readily show courtship behaviour towards heterospecific females and even prefer them to females of their own species. This behaviour is generally explained by indiscriminate mating to acquire more mates, but may partly be explained by male mate preference mechanisms that have developed to choose among conspecific females, as male preference for larger females causes mating with larger heterospecific females. Recently, we found that males of the red spider mite, Tetranychus evansi collected from Spain (invasive population), prefer to mate with females of the two-spotted spider mite, T. urticae rather than with conspecific females. In spider mites, mate preference for non-kin individuals has been observed. Here, we investigated if T. evansi males collected from the area of its origin (Brazil) also show preference for heterospecific females. Secondly, we investigated if mate preference of T. evansi males for heterospecific females is affected by their relatedness to conspecific females which are offered together with heterospecific females. We found that mate preference for heterospecific females exists in Brazilian T. evansi, suggesting that the preference for heterospecific females is not a lack of evolved premating isolation with an allopatric species. We found that T. evansi males showed lower propensity to mate with heterospecific females when alternative females were non-kin in the two iso-female lines collected from Brazil. However, the effect of relatedness on male mate preference was not significant. We discuss alternative hypotheses explaining why T. evansi males prefer to mate with T. urticae females.
KeywordsHeterospecific mating Inbreeding avoidance Invasive species Male mate choice Reproductive interference
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