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Cost of pheromone production in a lekking Drosophila
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolution.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolution.
2005 (English)In: Animal Behaviour, ISSN 0003-3472, E-ISSN 1095-8282, Vol. 69, no 4, 851-858 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

‘Sex pheromones’ are most commonly seen as mate attraction signals. However, there is growing evidence that chemical signals may also advertise mate quality. Theory predicts that for mate quality signals to be reliable they should be costly, a mechanism that is likely to drive condition-dependent expression of the signal in question. We investigated the relation between pheromone production and life span in Drosophila grimshawi, a lekking fruit fly where males deposit pheromones on the lekking arena. We manipulated pheromone production by subjecting males to another male, a female or no companion twice a week for the duration of their adult lives. We found that long-lived males deposited pheromones for a greater proportion of their lives across treatments. Males that met other males, rather than females or no flies, also deposited pheromones for a greater proportion of their lives. However, this greater investment seemed to be costly since these males also had shorter life spans, presumably as a result of increased pheromone production. Thus, our results support the notion that pheromone production may act as an honest signal of quality. Furthermore, we show that the pheromone has multiple functions and that male D. grimshawi appear to adjust their investment in pheromone production in relation to their social environment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005. Vol. 69, no 4, 851-858 p.
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-92767DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2004.08.007OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-92767DiVA: diva2:165959
Available from: 2005-03-24 Created: 2005-03-24 Last updated: 2013-09-18Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Chemical Communication and Mate Choice: Investigations into the Meaning of a Fruit Fly Pheromone
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Chemical Communication and Mate Choice: Investigations into the Meaning of a Fruit Fly Pheromone
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Chemical signals are the most widely used form of sexual communication throughout the living world. However, there is in general little knowledge about what these signals actually communicate. The role of chemical signals, i.e. pheromones, in sexual behaviour has traditionally been seen as restricted to mate attraction and species recognition. This thesis reviews the evidence for pheromones as indicators of mate quality, and then investigates three important factors for mate quality signals – individual variation, heritability and cost – by using the male pheromone of the lekking fruit fly Drosophila grimshawi as a model.

The experiments presented indicate that the pheromone of D. grimshawi has multiple functions, and that these functions vary with social context. Thus, with regard to females, the pheromone seems to act mainly as a species/mate recognition signal, since females show little preference for the amount of pheromone deposited by a male. Moreover, males invest less in pheromone production when subjected to females as compared to when subjected to rival males. However, the pheromone seems to be costly in production since males that invest much in pheromone deposition has a shorter lifespan. This suggests a function for the pheromone in male-male interactions. Males can distinguish their own pheromone depositions from those of a strange male, and also discriminate between pheromone depositions from one and two strange males. This might give them the ability to assess the size of a lek and the competitive capacities of rivals, information that should be useful when optimizing sexual behaviour.

In conclusion, the pheromone seems to act as an honest mate/competitor quality signal in some social contexts, and as a non-costly species/mate recognition signal in other. In addition, I show for the first time that a chemical signal has differential fitness costs, and that an insect is able to distinguish between individual odour signatures.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2005. 46 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 27
Ecology, Drosophila grimshawi, sexual selection, pheromone, mate choice, lekking, Ekologi
National Category
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-4840 (URN)91-554-6183-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-04-15, Old Zootis lecture hall, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Villavägen 9, Uppsala, 10:00
Available from: 2005-03-24 Created: 2005-03-24Bibliographically approved

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Widemo, Fredrik
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