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Size-Dependent Mating Success at Various Nutritional States in the Yellow Dung Fly


Wolf Blanckenhorn, Zoologisches Museum, Universität Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland.


Mating success not only depends on genetic quality, but also equally on environmental factors, most prominently food availability. We investigated the interactive effects of nutritional state and body size on mating success and copula duration in yellow dung fly males (Scathophaga stercoraria; Diptera: Scathophagidae) of three body size selection lines in the laboratory in both non-competitive (single) and competitive (group) situations. Adults require protein and lipids from prey to reproduce, as well as sugars as an energy source for reproductive activity. We expected mating success to decrease with time because of sperm depletion (sugar treatment) and/or energy shortage (water treatment) relative to the control, prey plus sugar treatment. Based on physiological scaling, we also expected large-line males to become depleted either sooner because of their higher energy and sperm demands, or later because of their more efficient energy use. Average mating success indeed declined over a period of 5–7 d (or 5–15 potential copulations per male), but equally for all food treatments and body size classes. Surprisingly, water-fed and small-line males had the highest mating probability in the non-competitive setting, while in the competitive setting large-line males had the highest success. Energy-depleted males showed apparent terminal investment. Small males acquired females more readily but eventually lost them to larger males in the competitive situation. As shown before, copula duration was inversely related to body size and increased with copulation number, independent of food treatment. We conclude that sugar or prey shortage has little effect on mating success in the short term, and does not differentially affect males of different sizes.