Experience counts: females favor multiply mated males over chemically endowed virgins in a moth (Utetheisa ornatrix).
Determining the factors that affect male mating success is essential to understanding how sexual selection operates, including explanations of the adaptive value of female preferences and how variation in male traits is maintained in a population. Although females may appear to choose males based on a single parameter, female mate choice is often a complex series of assessments of male quality that can only be revealed through manipulation of multiple male traits. In the moth Utetheisa ornatrix (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae), females have been shown to judge males primarily on their production of a courtship pheromone, hydroxydanaidal, derived from defensive chemicals acquired as larvae. Recent work, however, suggested that other factors, including prior mating experience by males, may also influence the outcome of precopulatory interactions with females. I ran mating trials with one female and two males to determine whether there were any differences in male mating success based on their prior exposure to females, mating experience, and time between matings. Previously mated males were favored over virgins when both males lacked the pheromone, but courting experience and mating interval did not explain these differences in male mating success. Furthermore, multiply mated males lacking the pheromone were favored over virgin males that produced the pheromone, thus reversing the commonly observed trend of female precopulatory bias towards males with higher levels of the pheromone. These results demonstrate that males with mating experience can secure copulations despite deficiencies in the pheromone, and I provide possible mechanisms and discuss their implications regarding sexual selection.
|Main Author:||Iyengar, Vikram.|