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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Jan 22;274(1607):247-52.

Copulation, genital damage and early death in Callosobruchus maculatus.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lincoln, Riseholme Park, Lincoln LN2 2LG, UK. peady@lincoln.ac.uk

Abstract

Antagonistic sexual coevolution stems from the notion that male and female interests over reproduction are in conflict. Such conflicts appear to be particularly obvious when male genital armature inflicts damage to the female reproductive tract resulting in reduced female longevity. However, studies of mating frequency, genital damage and female longevity are difficult to interpret because females not only sustain more genital damage, but also receive more seminal fluid when they engage in multiple copulations. Here, we attempt to disentangle the effects of genital damage and seminal fluid transfer on female longevity in the beetle Callosobruchus maculatus (Coleoptera: Bruchidae). Males copulating for the sixth time in succession inflicted greater levels of genital damage, but transferred smaller ejaculates in comparison with virgin males. The number of copulations performed by males was negatively related to female fecundity and positively related to female longevity, suggesting a trade-off between fecundity and longevity. However, inclusion of fecundity as a covariate revealed sperm and/or seminal fluid transfer to have a negative impact on female longevity above that caused by the fecundity-longevity trade-off. The consequences of multiple copulations on female longevity were examined. Females that mated twice laid more eggs and died sooner than those that mated once. However, incorporation of fecundity as a covariate into our statistical model removed the effect of female mating frequency on female longevity, indicating that double-mated females suffer greater mortality owing to the trade-off between fecundity and longevity. Males of this species are known to transfer very large ejaculates (up to 8% of their body weight), which may represent a significant nutritional benefit to females. However, the receipt of large ejaculates appears to carry costs. Thus, the interpretation of multiple mating experiments on female longevity and associated functional explanations of polyandry in this species are likely to be complex.

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