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Effect of variation in objective resource value on extreme male combat in a quasi-gregarious species, Anastatus disparis

Liu, Peng-Cheng, Hao, De-Jun
BMC ecology 2019 v.19 no.1 pp. 21
Anastatus, animals, eggs, empirical research, fecundity, fighting behavior, males, mating competitiveness, parasitoids, virgin females
BACKGROUND: Aggressive behaviour is widely observed in animal kingdom, which compete for resources such as territory, food and mates. Resource value is the most important non-strategic factor influencing fighting behaviour, and may vary among contests and contestants. Usually, contestants adjust their fighting behaviour when the resource value changes, and as potentially damaging and energetically costly, individuals of most species usually avoid conflict escalation. However, in a quasi-gregarious egg parasitoid, Anastatus disparis (Hymenoptera: Eupelmidae), mates are valuable resources and females mate only once; thus, males engage in frequently extreme combat behaviour to acquire mating opportunities, even in the absence of females. In this study, we attempted to test whether males of this species have the ability to adjust their fighting behaviour in response to changes in the objective value of female. RESULTS: Our results suggested that objective resource value in A. disparis is likely to be influenced by female mating status rather than by fecundity. Consistent with a number of empirical studies, A. disparis males adjusted their fighting behaviour according to the value of the contested resources: males significantly increased their fighting intensity to acquire mating opportunities with virgin females but decreased their fighting intensity for mated females. We also found that rather than chemical cues, visual cues and physical sexual contact appear to play a role in determining males’ ability to detect variation in female mating status. CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggested that although in this species, males have evolved extreme fighting behaviour and females are valuable resources, males do not always escalate fighting behaviour in competition for mating with a female. Valuable resources and variation in resource value were detected and estimated by A. disparis males, which then adjusted their fighting behaviour accordingly and to some extent avoided incoming fighting costs.