Strategic Investment in Sperm Removal Behaviour in a Bushcricket


Multiple mating by females is widespread and generates sperm competition among the ejaculates of rival males over fertilization. One way in which males can avoid or reduce sperm competition is by displacing or removing previous males’ sperm from female sperm stores. An apparent example of this occurs in the bushcricket Metaplastes ornatus. Males perform a specialised sperm removal behaviour (SRB), using their highly-derived subgenital plate, with which they remove sperm from the female’s spermatheca during the early phases of mating before transferring a spermatophore of their own. Here we investigated whether males strategically invest in SRB according to the amount of previously stored sperm present in females. Each male was tested twice, once with a female containing sperm (‘filled’ condition) and once with a female from whom most previously deposited sperm had recently been removed by another male (‘emptied’ condition). For comparison, a separate group of males was paired with virgin females. Males did not discriminate between non-virgin females in the ‘emptied’ or ‘filled’ conditions in terms of their investment in SRB, suggesting they may not able to perceive the amount of sperm present in the female’s spermatheca. By contrast, male investment in SRB was significantly reduced in pairings with virgin females, indicating that males are sensitive to some aspect of a female’s mating status. Our results thus suggest that males modulate SRB in response to female-mediated cues, possibly chemical cues left by previous males, which would not be present on virgin but would be on non-virgin females.

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We would like to thank Ralf Jochmann for providing video material of the animals and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on previous versions of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Maike Foraita.

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Foraita, M., Lehfeldt, S., Reinhold, K. et al. Strategic Investment in Sperm Removal Behaviour in a Bushcricket. J Insect Behav 30, 170–179 (2017) doi:10.1007/s10905-017-9608-2

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  • Insect reproduction
  • sperm competition
  • bush cricket
  • cryptic mate choice