Behavioural induction of unreceptivity to mating from a post-copulatory display in the red mason bee, Osmia bicornis

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In monandrous species, females have to manage their mating receptivity not only to gather an appropriate sperm supply, but to avoid further male sexual harassment as well. The shutdown of female receptivity to mating is often an irreversible process and therefore should result from a reliable signal. Females of the red mason bee, Osmia bicornis (syn. O. rufa), mate only once within the first day after their emergence from the maternal nest. The unreceptivity to mating of a mated female is induced by a male post-copulatory display, which takes place for about 10 min after ejaculating. During this display the male obviously applies an anti-aphrodisiac that reduces female’s attractiveness resulting in protection from other rival male sexual harassment. Protection by odour is only temporarily needed because females eventually reduce their attractiveness and receptivity to mating by themselves within a few days after emergence. The autonomous decrease in virgin female’s receptivity to mating is simply age driven and independent from mating status. In summary, the involvement of ejaculate substances in causing a loss of female receptivity to mating can be excluded for this species.

Behavioural induction of unreceptivity to mating from a post-copulatory display in the red mason bee, Osmia bicornis

in Behaviour



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    Decline of female receptivity with age (days after emergence from the cocoon). Regression line with 95% confidence interval, the star denotes an outlier excluded from the statistical analysis.

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    Cumulative frequencies of courtship duration (circles) and total pairing time (triangles) of successful (filled symbols) or rejected (open circles) matings by virgin females. The grey area marks the time corridor between median courtship duration and median total pairing time of successful males. Short dashed lines indicate the portion of unsuccessful males that give up courting earlier than median courting time or median pairing time of successful males, respectively.

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    Schemata of the different O. bicornis mating phases. Body parts in motion are marked by bold contours. Arrows indicate the direction of the movement. (A) courtship; (B) copulation; (C, D) post-copulatory display.

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    Effect of a post-copulatory display on (A) the re-copulation frequency of mated (inseminated) females and (B) the copulation frequency of virgin females. Copulation frequency of virgin, freshly emerged females, served as a reference (control) in both experiments. Significant differences are marked with an asterisk (n.s. = not significant).

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