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Males Respond to the Risk of Sperm Competition in the Sexually Cannibalistic Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa


Radovan Václav, Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 9, SK-84506 Bratislava, Slovakia. E-mail:


Although studies on sperm competition examined a wide range of taxa, little is known about the selection pressures on male traits in systems with simultaneous risk of sperm competition and sexual cannibalism. Here, we experimentally studied how the risk of sperm competition affects male copulatory behavior in the sexually cannibalistic praying mantis Mantis religiosa. We recorded the onset and duration of copulations following the introduction of virgin, adult praying mantises into mating arenas with three different sex ratio treatments: polyandrous, monogamous, and polygynous. We did not detect any female phenotypic trait predicting cannibalism. The chance of male survival was related to his condition, with males in better condition being cannibalized significantly less often. In contrast, we did not identify any male trait that would favor some males to obtain copulations. Our results on copulation duration support sperm competition theory in that the copulations in the male-biased treatment, where the perceived risk of sperm competition was greatest, were significantly longer than those in single-male treatments. Importantly, males in better condition copulated significantly longer regardless of sex ratio. Overall, our study suggests that males can adjust their copulation behavior in response to the risk of sperm competition even in a system with frequent sexual cannibalism.