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Diet affects female mating behaviour in a seed-feeding beetle

Authors


Charles Fox, Department of Entomology, S-225 Agricultural Science Center North, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40546-0091, U.S.A. Tel.: +1 859 257 7474; fax: +1 859 323 1120; e-mail: fox@uky.edu

Abstract.

In species where males provide nuptial gifts, females can improve their nutritional status and thus increase their fecundity by mating when in need of resources. However, mating can be costly, so females should only mate to acquire resources when the need for resources is large, such as when females are nutritionally-deprived. Two populations of the seed-feeding beetle Callosobruchus maculatus, a species that produces relatively large nuptial gifts, are used to test whether female nutritional status affects mating behaviour. Female access to water, sugar and yeast are manipulated and the fitness consequences of these manipulations are examined together with the effects of diet on the propensity of nonvirgin females to mate. Access to water has a small but significant effect on mass loss over time, lifespan and fecundity of females, relative to unfed controls. Access to sugar (dissolved in water) improves female fecundity and lifespan above that of hydrated females but access to yeast has no positive effects on female survival or reproduction. Diet has a large effect on both receptivity of nonvirgin females to a male and how quickly they accept that male. Unfed females are both more likely to mate, and accept a mate more quickly, than females provided access to water, which are more likely to mate and accept a mate more quickly than females provided with sugar. This rank order of behaviours matches the order predicted if females increase their mating rate when nutritionally deprived (i.e. it matches the effect of diet on female fitness). The results obtained also suggest that mate choice may be condition-dependent: females from one population (Burkina Faso) show a preference for large males when well-fed but not when unfed, although this result is not found in a second population (South India). It is concluded that nutritionally-deprived females are more receptive to mates than are well-fed females, consistent with the hypothesis that females ‘forage’ for nuptial gifts, or at least more willingly accept sperm in exchange for nuptial gifts, when they are nutritionally deprived.

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