Correlates of perfume load in male orchid bees
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Male neotropical orchid bees collect volatile substances from their environment and compose complex, species-specific odour blends in leg pouches. These perfumes are accumulated by the males over time and are exposed during pre-mating display. It has been hypothesized that perfumes are indicators of male genotypic quality and that females chose mates by the quality or intensity of their odour. Because direct experimental proof is lacking, we investigated whether the amount or complexity of male perfumes is related to male (1) size, (2) fluctuating (left–right) asymmetry, or (3) age, traits that are known to be sexually selected in other animals. We measured left and right forewings (cell node distances for 1 and 2, wing wear for 3) of Euglossa dilemma and Euglossa viridissima collected during dry and rainy seasons on the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico (total N = 768). Wing size was not related to the quantity or the complexity of perfume extracts in either species after excluding the effect of season, which positively affected both size and perfume load in E. dilemma. Wing asymmetry had also no effect, except in rainy season E. viridissima, where it was positively (not negatively) correlated with the quantity of perfume. Wing wear, an established age indicator of orchid bees, had the only consistent overall effect, being positively correlated with perfume amount and complexity in both species. This is in agreement with the idea that perfumes are an honest indicator of male survival capacity.
KeywordsFragrances Fitness indicator Age indicator Sexual selection Female choice Male size Fluctuating asymmetry Wing wear
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