Asymmetric reproductive interference between two closely related spider mites: Tetranychus urticae and T. turkestani (Acari: Tetranychidae)

Tselila Ben-David, Uri Gerson, Shai Morin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Tetranychus turkestani Ugarov and Nikolskii and Tetranychus urticae Koch RF (red form) (Acari: Tetranychidae) are closely related species. Previously, the two species were found in separate agricultural habitats in Israel. Here, additional collections were undertaken and mixed populations of the two species were found. Manipulation experiments were conducted in order to test whether sexual interactions occur when T. turkestani and T. urticae RF share the same host. Interspecific crosses showed that the two species are capable of producing viable F1 females, but that these females are sterile as their F2 eggs failed to hatch. This indicates a post-zygotic reproductive barrier, supporting the current placement of T. turkestani as a separate taxon. Mating behavior parameters revealed that males of both species courted virgin conspecific and heterospecific females at the same rate and readily tried to copulate with them. Female mate recognition seemed to be more reliable in T. turkestani than in T. urticae RF as the number of copulations was significantly higher and their duration significantly shorter in the T. turkestani interspecific (T. turkestani ♀ T. urticae RF ♂ as compared to the intraspecific crosses, a phenomenon not observed in T. urticae RF. In mixed cultures, a significant reduction in female production was observed for T. urticae RF but not for T. turkestani, suggesting an asymmetric reproductive interference effect in favor of T. turkestani. The long term outcome of this effect is yet to be determined since additional reproductive factors such as oviposition rate and progeny survival to adulthood may reduce the probability of demographic displacement of one species by the other in overlapping niches.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)213-227
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Neta Mozes-Daube and Einat Zchori-Fein for helping screen our mite populations for the presence of bacteria associated with reproductive manipulation. We also thank Moshe Elbaz for helpful comments on the experimental design and the manuscript. This work was partially supported by research grant from the State of Israel, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Plant Protection and Inspection Services (PPIS).


  • Agricultural pests
  • Host preference
  • Interspecific interaction
  • Mating behavior
  • Reproductive interference


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