MALE COCKROACHES PREFER A HIGH CARBOHYDRATE DIET THAT MAKES THEM MORE ATTRACTIVE TO FEMALES: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE STUDY OF CONDITION DEPENDENCE

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Abstract

Sexual selection is a major force driving the evolution of elaborate male sexual traits. Handicap models of sexual selection predict that male sexual traits should covary positively with condition, making them reliable indicators of male quality. However, most studies have either manipulated condition through varying diet quantity and/or caloric content without knowledge of specific nutrient effects or have correlated proxies of condition with sexual trait expression. We used nutritional geometry to quantify protein and carbohydrate intake by male cockroaches, Nauphoeta cinerea, and related this to sex pheromone expression, attractiveness, and dominance status. We found that carbohydrate, but not protein, intake is related to male sex pheromone expression and attractiveness but not dominance status. Additionally, we related two condition proxies (weight gain and lipid reserves) to protein and carbohydrate acquisition. Weight gain increased with the intake of both nutrients, whereas lipid reserves only increased with carbohydrate intake. Importantly, lipid accumulation was not as responsive to carbohydrate intake as attractiveness and thus was a less-accurate condition proxy. Moreover, males preferentially consumed high carbohydrate diets with little regard for protein content suggesting that they actively increase their carbohydrate intake thereby maximizing their reproductive fitness by being attractive.

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