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Front. Ecol. Evol. | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00075

Plasticity of mating duration in response to slightly biased operational sex ratios in the water strider (Aquarius remigis): the effect of cohabitation under standard laboratory conditions

  • 1Psychology, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, United States
  • 2Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Nova Southeastern University, United States

In polygynandrous species, males face the trade-off between the pursuit of increased mating opportunities and securing paternity. Within such systems, males need to accurately assess the social composition of the local environment to maximize fitness. Here, we investigated this capability in the water strider (Aquarius remigis), a semi-aquatic insect known to exhibit a broad spectrum of mating behaviors and inhabit a socially diverse and changing environment. Using a combination of methodological designs to track both within- and between-subject effects, individuals remained in same-sex housing prior to being exposed to slightly biased operational sex ratios (2:1 vs. 1:2) with or without prior cohabitation to determine the effects on mating duration. Results show that males were sensitive to these subtle differences in social conditions, mating for longer periods within male-biased environments, but this was true only under conditions with prior cohabitation. In particular, when individuals could acclimate to the testing environment, mating duration dropped precipitously in female-biased conditions. These findings do not support the view that male water striders have consistent behavioral syndromes, and instead show that individuals are able to differentiate between, and adaptively respond to, small changes in the local sex ratio. In addition to improving our understanding of the plasticity of male mating behavior in this species, this study offers new insights for future laboratory research studying reproductive competition across a diverse range of polygynandrous animals.

Keywords: sperm competition, operational sex ratio, male-male competition, Conditional strategies, Sexual selection

Received: 17 Sep 2018; Accepted: 27 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Carlos Alonso Alvarez, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain

Reviewed by:

Inger S. Prange, Appalachian Wildlife Research Institute (United States), United States
Piotr Jablonski, Seoul National University, South Korea  

Copyright: © 2019 Gallup, Pietruch and Eldakar. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Andrew C. Gallup, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Psychology, Utica, 13820, New York, United States, a.c.gallup@gmail.com