The cost of mating with a non-virgin male in a monandrous butterfly: experimental evidence from the speckled wood,Pararge aegeria

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Abstract

Contrary to vertebrates, sperm production in insects may bear considerable costs for males. This is especially true in species that donate spermatophores containing sperm and nutrient-rich accessory gland products like in butterflies. Hence, spermatophores at first and subsequent copulations can differ in a quantitative and qualitative way. Such effects have particularly been shown in polyandrous species providing large spermatophores. Here we experimentally tested the effect of male mating status (virgin male vs recently mated male) on copulation duration, spermatophore size and females' fitness components in a monandrous butterfly Pararge aegeria that typically donates small spermatophores. Copulations with non-virgin males lasted on average five times longer than that with virgin males and resulted in a spermatophore which was on average three times smaller. Number of eggs laid and female life span were not affected by the mating status treatment, but there was a significant effect on the number of living caterpillars a female produced, as copulations with virgin males resulted in higher numbers of larval offspring. Interestingly, the difference in spermatophore mass at the first and the second copulation increased with male body size. This suggests differential spermatophore allocation decisions among males of different size. Consequences for females and potential mechanisms influencing female fitness components are discussed. Given the small absolute size of spermatophores in P. aegeria, components other than consumable nutrients (perhaps hormones) should cause the observed effects.

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