Sexual selection and mating advantages in the giant sperm species, Drosophila bifurca

J Insect Sci. 2005;5:10. doi: 10.1093/jis/5.1.10.


Mate choice may be exercised by either sex; however, females are generally choosier than males because they invest more in their gametes. Female choice is often based on direct benefits, such as better reproductive output, whereas male choice appears to be based on differences in female fecundity. However, when gamete production is limited, sexual selection theories predict that mate choice will be decisive for reproductive success in both sexes. Here, we investigate how mating advantage is achieved in Drosophila bifurca, a giant sperm species in which both sexes produce only a few gametes. Our initial expectations were as follows: (1) females would discriminate against sperm-depleted males to avoid fertility cost; and (2) males would discriminate against inseminated females to reduce sperm competition and increase the assurance of paternity of individual gametes. Differences in courtship behaviors were analyzed with regard to the sexual maturity, which is reached after 22 days in males at 21 degrees C, and the reproductive history of both sexes (inseminated versus virgin for females, and sperm-depleted versus sperm-loaded for males). Our results show that: (1) sexual immaturity precludes mating in both sexes; (2) virgin females do not discriminate between sperm-loaded and sperm-depleted males, and (3) males mate preferentially with virgin females, because inseminated females fend off the male, which tended to bring male courtship to an end. Female remating was limited, but increased significantly when the first male was sperm-depleted. Contrary to our initial expectations, these findings suggest that male sperm depletion does not affect female mating preference, whereas the success of male courtship is driven by female behavior. The possibility that female remating was only promoted in response to low sperm transfer is discussed in relation to the gametic system of this species.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Male
  • Reproduction
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / physiology
  • Time Factors