Postcopulatory sexual selection in Mediterranean fruit flies: Advantages for large and protein-fed males

Phillip W. Taylor*, Boaz Yuval

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Previous laboratory studies of Mediterranean fruit flies, Ceratitis capitata (medflies), have identified large size and protein feeding as positive influences on the ability of males to secure copulations. In this study, we investigated whether large and protein-fed males experience additional advantages in terms of amount and distribution of sperm stored by mates. We also examined relationships between copula duration and sperm storage. Mates of large and protein-fed males were more likely to store sperm and to store more sperm than mates of small and protein-deprived males. Probability of sperm storage was associated with copula duration; all copulations lasting less than 100 min failed whereas 98% lasting longer than 100 min succeeded. Copulations involving sperm storage were longer if males were small or protein deprived or if the female was large, although there was no evidence of a relationship between copula duration and total sperm storage. Evidence from related studies suggests that variation in latency until sperm transfer, caused by size and diet, is a likely explanation for varying copula duration. Sperm tended to be stored asymmetrically between the female's two spermathecae, consistent with a mating system in which females maintain isolated populations of sperm from different males and later select between them. Storage was less asymmetric when large numbers of sperm were stored but there was little evidence that male size or diet affected this asymmetry. It is uncertain whether postcopulatory advantages of large and protein-fed male medflies arise from female preferences or male dominance through coercion or force.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)247-254
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank André Gilburn, Scott Field, Roy Kaspi and an anonymous referee for constructive comments on the manuscript. We also thank Hilary Voet for statistical advice and Siggy Mossinson for technical assistance. Flies were provided by Y. Rössler and R. Akiva of the Israel Citrus Board. This research was supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation to B.Y.


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