Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Role Reversal: Male Gets Easy Ride In Insect Courtship

Date:
July 30, 2003
Source:
University Of Melbourne
Summary:
University of Melbourne scientists in collaboration with a Swedish colleague have found a tiny voracious water bug where the female of the species lays all this on for their male partner, the first time such nuptial behaviour, at least the food for sex part, has ever been observed in female animals.

As a male, how does free transport, free food and, as a bonus for your hard work, unlimited sex with your chosen female partner sound?

Well, University of Melbourne scientists in collaboration with a Swedish colleague have found a tiny voracious water bug where the female of the species lays all this on for their male partner, the first time such nuptial behaviour, at least the food for sex part, has ever been observed in female animals.

Their findings will appear in the next issue of Nature (24 July 2003).

Evolution has generally dictated that it is usually the male that lavishes the female with expensive gifts (usually food) and often risks life and limb to secure the opportunity to pass on his genes to the next generation. Females are typically choosy, picking only the best males while also getting enough food to ensure their offspring are well fed and inherit the quality attributes from their father.

The tiny Zeus bug (Phoreticovelia disparata) is a water skater common along Australia's east coast. Its behaviour, which defies this norm, has scientists baffled.

"All the advantages in this relationship seem to fall to the male with no obvious advantage for the female, yet the female Zeus bug seems a willing partner in this one-sided affair," says paper author, Dr. Mark Elgar, University of Melbourne Department of Zoology.

The male Zeus bug at about 1mm in length and half the size of the female will piggy-back on his female mate, seating himself comfortably in a seemingly custom-made hollow. During the ride, the male sups on an all-you-can-eat protein-packed wax the female secretes from a gland near her head. All that remains for the male is to get down to the serious business of mating with the female.

"The male can ride the female, feeding and mating for up to a week," says Elgar

"The female usually produces the wax feed when a male is riding her and she will continue to produce it for as long as the male remains, yet once deposited, his sperm will allow her to continually produce batches of fertile eggs for up to two weeks," he says.

So why do females let the male stay onboard? What does the female get for continually expending precious energy to feed and carry around the male?

While they can only speculate at this stage, the biologists suggest that by keeping one male for long periods, possibly for the duration of her reproductive life, the female will expend less energy than she would if she tried throwing off the male after he deposited his sperm, only to have another amorous male start harassing her for a free ride.

"A constant stream of suitors wanting to participate in a polygamous free-for-all could possibly lead to greater harassment, leading to the female expending more energy and placing herself at greater risk of harm than if she doted on just the one male," says Elgar.

"For the male, while it seems he may be putting all his eggs in one basket by remaining faithful, by doing so he is ensuring that his sperm rather than his rival's sperm is being used," he says.

"The finding gives us a new perspective on how mating behaviours have evolved and been maintained."

**NB According to legend, Zeus consumed his first wife Metis.

Dr. Mark Elgar and Dr. Therιsa Jones (University of Melbourne) collaborated on this project with Gφran Arnqvist, University of Uppsala, Sweden.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Melbourne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Melbourne. "Role Reversal: Male Gets Easy Ride In Insect Courtship." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/07/030725080035.htm>.
University Of Melbourne. (2003, July 30). Role Reversal: Male Gets Easy Ride In Insect Courtship. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/07/030725080035.htm
University Of Melbourne. "Role Reversal: Male Gets Easy Ride In Insect Courtship." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/07/030725080035.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) — The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) — A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins