Sex, food and conflicts: nutrition dependent nuptial feeding and pre-mating struggles in scorpionflies

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Female and male reproductive interests often differ. In species in which matings are accompanied by a transfer of resources valuable for both participants, such as nuptial prey gifts, conflicts may readily occur. Scorpionflies may use alternative mating tactics. One is to offer a prey item (dead arthropod) to females in exchange for mating. This prey gift tactic includes a conflict because a male must decide on whether to offer the gift rather than to fight the female and consume the gift. The outcome may depend on the nutritional status of both males and females. Males may be more willing to give if they themselves are satiated and the condition of the females may influence the payoff from the males' investment. Similarly, females may be more willing to accept food gifts if they are in poor nutritional condition. In this study of the scorpionfly Panorpa cognata, I experimentally manipulated the feeding history of both males and females. I observed the outcome of the direct interactions that followed when males that were holding prey were approached by females. I found that well-fed males offered the food gift sooner than males in poor nutritional condition that fed extensively on the food item before offering. Female condition had no significant influence on whether prey items were offered by males or accepted by females. I also found that well-fed males rarely searched for prey to pursue the prey gift tactic in courtship. Thus, the prey tactic does not seem to be the males' first option.

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