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Keywords:

  • Immunocompetence;
  • odours;
  • sexual ornaments;
  • sexual selection

Summary

  • 1
    Pheromones are chemical signals that function not only as mate attractors, but may also relay important information to prospective mates. In order for the information to be reliable, the signal must be costly to produce and this is likely to result in condition dependent expression of the signal.
  • 2
    We present results from two experiments on the grain beetle Tenebrio molitor examining phenotypic condition dependence of pheromones and patterns of female preference for pheromones. We also analysed condition dependence of two measures of immunocompetence: encapsulation response and phenoloxidase activity.
  • 3
    By manipulating the nutritional condition of the males we found that the attractiveness of the male pheromones to virgin females was condition-dependent, indicating that the production of the pheromones is affected by the condition of the male. We also found that the phenoloxidase activity of the males was affected by the nutritional condition of the male but that encapsulation rate was not.
  • 4
    Our results show that pheromones are condition-dependent signals, the quantity of which females use in their mate choice.