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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46202. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046202. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

Influence of the male ejaculate on post-mating prezygotic barriers in field crickets.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.


Post-copulatory interactions between males and females involve highly coordinated, complex traits that are often rapidly evolving and divergent between species. Failure to produce and deposit eggs may be a common post-mating prezygotic barrier, yet little is known about what prevents the induction of egg-laying between species. The field crickets, Gryllus firmus and G. pennsylvanicus are isolated by a one-way reproductive incompatibility; G. pennsylvanicus males fail to fertilize G. firmus eggs or to induce normal egg-laying in G. firmus females. We use experimental crosses to elucidate the role of accessory gland-derived vs. testis-derived components of the G. firmus male ejaculate on egg-laying in conspecific and heterospecific crosses. Using surgical castrations to create 'spermless' males that transfer only seminal fluid proteins (SFPs) we test whether G. firmus male SFPs can induce egg-laying in conspecific crosses and rescue egg-laying in crosses between G. pennsylvanicus males and G. firmus females. We find G. firmus SFPs induce only a small short-term egg-laying response and that SFPs alone cannot explain the normal induction of egg-laying. Gryllus firmus SFPs also do not rescue the heterospecific cross. Testis-derived components, such as sperm or prostaglandins, most likely stimulate egg-laying or act as transporters for SFPs to targets in the female reproductive tract. These results highlight the utility of experimental approaches for investigating the phenotypes that act as barriers between species and suggest that future work on the molecular basis of the one-way incompatibility between G. firmus and G. pennsylvanicus should focus on divergent testis-derived compounds or proteins in addition to SFPs.

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