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Mating System and Sexual Selection in the Scorpionfly Panorpa vulgaris (Mecoptera: Panorpidae)

Panorpa vulgaris

has become a model insect for testing theories of sexual selection. This contribution summarizes that which has been learned in recent years and presents new data that clearly show that the mating system of P. vulgaris is not simply a resource-defense polygyny, as has previously been thought. In P. vulgaris neither the pattern in food exploitation nor the ratio of variance in the lifetime reproductive success of the two sexes is in accordance with that expected in resource defense polygynous mating systems. Lifetime mating duration is the most important proximate determinant of male fitness. Males employing alternative mating tactics obtain copulations of varying duration in relation to the following sequence: saliva secretion  1  food offering  1  no gift. The number of salivary masses which males provide to females during their lifetime is significantly correlated with the lifetime condition index. The condition index depends on the fighting prowess of males and their ability to find food items. Thus saliva secretion of Panorpa is considered a Zahavian handicap, which can serve as an honest quality indicator used by mating females. Our results confirm four main predictions of the indicator model of the theory of sexual selection: (a) the indicator signals high ecological quality of its bearer, (b) the indicator value increases with phenotypic quality, (c) the indicator value is positively correlated with the genetic quality affecting offspring fitness in a natural selection context, and (d) the quality indicator is more costly for low- than for high-quality individuals. The evolutionary consequences of the mating pattern and the sperm competition mechanism in P. vulgaris are discussed in the context the way in which sexual selection creates and maintains sperm mixing and the evolution of a promiscuous mating system.

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Sauer, K., Lubjuhn, T., Sindern, J. et al. Mating System and Sexual Selection in the Scorpionfly Panorpa vulgaris (Mecoptera: Panorpidae). Naturwissenschaften 85, 219–228 (1998).

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