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Are Centrally Displaying Males Always the Centre of Female Attention? Acoustic Display Position and Female Choice in a Lek Mating Subterranean Insect


Daniel R. Howard, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, ON M1C 1A4, Canada.


Several conceptual models seek to explain patterns of male display and factors that influence female mate choice in lek mating systems. The central advantage model predicts that males displaying at or near the lek centre should be more attractive to females than are males positioned along the lek periphery. Females may exhibit biases toward these centrally displaying males based on either spatial or display-related cues. We tested the prediction of the central advantage model in investigating the importance of male display position in the subterranean and lek mating prairie mole cricket (Gryllotalpa major). Gryllotalpa major males form mating aggregations in the early spring and produce an acoustic advertisement signal from a constructed calling chamber at the soil surface. Pair formation occurs in the calling chamber, and males typically maintain these structures for the duration of the reproductive season. To assess whether G. major females exhibit a preference for males calling from centrally located acoustic burrows, we documented the spatial position and number of female attractions for all advertising males across the focal lek. Six spatial attributes related to display position were reduced using principal component analysis and examined for an association with male attractiveness. We found that in general, female attractions were distributed randomly across the lek; male attractiveness was not related to proximity to the lek centre nor to any factor associated with display position. The most highly attractive males, however, were located further from the lek centre and from nearest calling neighbours than other attractive males. Advertising males that segregate themselves within the aggregation and locate nearer the lek margin may gain a geometric advantage resulting in the increased probability of attracting a searching female.