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Costs and benefits for water strider (Aquarius paludum) females of carrying guarding, reproductive males

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Abstract

We describe the mating system of Aquarius paludum insularis based on field observations and test hypotheses about the effects of body size, hunger level and post-copulatory guarding on reproductive performance. The mating sequence of this species was typical for temperate water striders, except that most oviposition was carried out by tandem pairs, most of which were submerged. Mate guarding continued until the end of oviposition, lasting up to 18.2 h, which was much longer than that recorded for other species of water striders. Pair partners changed after oviposition. Extended contact guarding reduced female mobility. In the case of females that carried long-winged males, there was a significant reduction in speed and stride between tandem as opposed to single females. However, when short-winged males were carried, there was not a significant difference. Short-term foraging efficiency did not differ significantly between tandem and single females, and thus did not reflect the difference in mobility. Hunger level did not significantly affect female mating receptivity. Although the number of harassment bouts by unpaired males did not differ between single and tandem females, single females suffered significantly more harassment. Females were able to lay fertilized eggs for about 15 days after a single copulation, but they accepted long guarding and multiple mating during this period as well. The cost of resisting male mating attempts appears to be greater than the cost of carrying males.

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