Males increase their fitness by choosing large females in the common bedbug Cimex lectularius

in Animal Biology
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Mate choice is often a role assigned to females. Already Darwin realised that males are eager to copulate, and females are choosy. However, male mate choice is not as rare as assumed. Males should choose females if females vary in quality, i.e., fecundity. Indeed, males often choose larger mates and through this preference increase fitness benefits. In addition, if mating costs reduce the number of copulations a male can potentially perform, he should be choosy. Bedbug females vary in their fecundity and female size is positively related to fecundity. Male bedbugs are limited in seminal fluid availability and, hence, the number of consecutive matings they can perform. Traumatic insemination gives males full control over mating, therefore low female mating resistance could further allow males to be choosy. Here, using mate choice arenas, we investigated if male bedbugs prefer to mate with large females. We observed mating behaviour and measured female fecundity to investigate potential male fitness benefits. Males chose to mate with large females 1.8 times more often than small females and large females laid significantly more eggs than small females. Our study provides first evidence for male mate choice based on female body size in bedbugs and males can increase their fitness by mating large females. It has to be further established if male mate choice is driven by mating costs in terms of ejaculate investment and if such male mate choice based on female size could be a driver of sexual size dimorphism in bedbugs.

Males increase their fitness by choosing large females in the common bedbug Cimex lectularius

in Animal Biology



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    Male mate preference of large (dark grey) and small females (light grey) for all three populations.

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    (A) Time to mount (s), (B) copulation duration (s), (C) number of viable eggs and (D) proportion of inviable eggs laid for each large and small female and all three populations for the preferred matings. Means are indicated as a line for each female size category and population combination. Filled circles represent individuals that were three weeks old and empty circles individuals that were four weeks old at the time of the mate choice trials.

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    Proportion of non-choice matings for large and small females separated for the populations.

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    (A) Copulation duration (s), (B) number of viable eggs and (C) proportion of inviable eggs laid for each large and small female and all three populations for the non-preferred matings. Means are indicated as a line for each female size category and population combination. Filled circles represent individuals that were three weeks old and empty circles individuals that were four weeks old at the time of the mate choice trials.

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