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Do female leaf beetles Galerucella nymphaeae choose their mates and does it matter?


The role of active female choice in sexual selection is frequently difficult to ascertain, and this is particularly the case for many insect species. Also, it is uncertain whether choosing between males would affect offspring viability. We designed an experiment to investigate the presence of female choice in a Coleoptera species (Galerucella nymphaeae). We also estimated whether mate choice would have any effect on offspring performance. Females were first placed with two males in a test arena to see which of the males copulated with the virgin female, and how quickly. Subsequently the loser male was offered a new virgin female to test for any change in latency time until mating. The two-male tests indicated that males with wider upper prothoraxes were more likely to mate with the female, and the latency time until mating was shorter when the winner male had relatively long wings. When the loser males were placed singly with females the latency time was not correlated with male size, and was the same as when two males were used. These results suggest that male-male competition is the most likely cause of sexual selection on size, and if females have any preferences they are not very strong. The seemingly passive female strategy may be sufficient to ensure that females mate with the most vigorous males, since in the field several males usually compete for access to each female. Finally, the benefits of female choosiness were estimated to be low and non-significant. The eggs of the winner males were no more likely to hatch, offspring survival into adulthood was no greater among descendants of winner males, and the offspring did not differ in adult size.

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Received: 3 March 1997 / Accepted: 13 October 1997

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Parri, S., Alatalo, R. & Mappes, J. Do female leaf beetles Galerucella nymphaeae choose their mates and does it matter?. Oecologia 114, 127–132 (1998).

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  • Key wordsGalerucella nymphaeae
  • Leaf beetle
  • Male size
  • Offspring viability
  • Sexual selection