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Parasitoid Infestation Changes Female Mating Preferences


Parasitoid Infestation Changes Female Mating Preferences

Oliver M Beckers et al. Anim Behav.


Females often adjust their mating preference to environmental and social conditions. This plasticity of preference can be adaptive for females and can have important consequences for the evolution of male traits. While predation and parasitism are widespread, their effects on female preferences have rarely been investigated. Females of the cricket Gryllus lineaticeps are parasitized by the parasitoid fly Ormia ochracea. Infestation with fly larvae substantially reduces female life span and thus reproductive opportunities of the cricket. Both female G. lineaticeps and flies orient to male song and both prefer male songs with faster chirp rates to songs with slower chirp rates. We tested the effect of parasitic infestation on female responsiveness to male song and female chirp rate preferences. The proportion of individuals responding to male songs did not differ between infested and control females. Control females preferred intermediate chirp rates to slow chirp rates and did not discriminate between fast and intermediate chirp rates. In contrast, infested females showed no preferences in the choice trials, indicating reduced chirp rate selectivity. This plasticity in female preferences may be adaptive; parasitized females may have a higher probability of reproducing before they are killed by the parasitoids if they are less selective (i.e. there will be a larger pool of males considered acceptable). The change in preferences suggests relaxed selection on male chirp rate during times of parasitism.

Keywords: Gryllus lineaticeps; Ormia ochracea; female preference; phenotypic plasticity; sexual selection.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Percentage of infested (black bars) and control (grey bars) female field crickets, Gryllus lineaticeps, that responded to male mating song. Female responsiveness to slow (1.8 chirps/s) versus intermediate (3.0 chirps/s) chirp rates (left panel) and intermediate (3.0 chirps/s) versus fast (4.2 chirp/s) chirp rates (right panel). Number of females (N) tested in each trial is indicated at the bottom of each bar.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Percentage of infested (black lines and symbols) and control (grey lines and symbols) female field crickets, Gryllus lineaticeps, choosing each of the alternative chirp rates. Symbols indicate the percentage of females choosing a given chirp rate; lines connect female responses for a given type of choice trial (i.e. 1.8 versus 3.0 chirps/s and 3.0 versus 4.2 chirps/s). We tested the chirp rate preferences of 20 infested and 20 control females in the slow versus intermediate chirp trial, and 20 infested and 17 control females in the intermediate versus fast chirp trial. Asterisk indicates a significant difference between infested and control females in preferred chirp rate.

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