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Courtship song and immune function in the field cricket Gryllus bimaculatus


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It has been assumed that sexual ornaments have evolved to reveal males’ health and vigour for females. Choosy females may indirectly use ornaments as an indicator of the presence and effectiveness of genes for resistance against parasites. In this study we tested whether females of the Mediterranean field cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus, can use courtship song as a cue for choosing males with high immunocompetence, measured as encapsulation rate of nylon implants and lytic activity of haemolymph. We found that female crickets preferred courtship songs from males with a high encapsulation rate. Female crickets also had a tendency to prefer courtship songs with high tick rate and long high-frequency tick duration. These preferred song components were positively correlated with encapsulation rate, but negatively correlated with lytic activity of the male. In contrast to previous studies of crickets, there was no correlation between male weight and encapsulation rate or lytic activity. There is some evidence in another cricket species that the ability to encapsulate pathogens is heritable. Thus, in light of this study it seems possible that by preferring males according to their courtship song, females might benefit by increasing the parasite resistance of their offspring. © 2003 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2003, 79, 503–510.