Assortative Mating in Two Pheromone Strains of the Cabbage Looper Moth,Trichoplusia ni

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The evolution of animal communication systems is an integral part of speciation. In moths, species specificity of the communication channel is largely a result of unique sex pheromone blends produced by females and corresponding specificity of male behavioral response. Insights into the process of speciation may result from studies of pheromone strains within a species in which reproductive isolation is not complete. Toward this end we investigated assortative mating based on female pheromone phenotypes and male response specificity between mutant and normal colonies of the cabbage looper moth, Trichoplusia ni. There was no evidence of assortative mating in small cages in which the density of moths was high. In larger cages with lower densities of moths, assortative mating was evident. In these larger cages, matings between normal males and normal females and mutant males and mutant females were more frequent than interstrain matings. Wind tunnel tests indicated that normal males responded preferentially to pheromone released by normal females, whereas mutant males did not discriminate between normal and mutant pheromone blends. In large field cages, pheromone traps baited with normal females caught equal numbers of mutant and normal males, while pheromone traps baited with mutant females caught primarily mutant males. The overall pattern of assortative mating could be explained primarily based on the normal males' preference for the pheromone blend released by normal females.

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