Male wasps 'tag' virgins for future sex

Last Updated: Sat, Jan 05, 2013 09:10 hrs

If male Ooencyrtus kuvanae wasps see a female they like they claim her with a flick of their antennae, and once she has been claimed by a male, the female resists all others, keeping herself just for him, researchers say.

Gerhard Gries and his colleagues from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, noticed that when a male decided to claim a female for his harem he would approach from her left, and once in range, he tapped one of her antennae with one of his.

He believes this transfers an as yet unidentified pheromone onto the female's antenna, and this pheromone effectively marks the female as "out of bounds", New Scientist reported.

Males mostly avoided contact with tagged females and if a male did approach a tagged female, she evaded him.

From the males' point of view, this strategy seems to pay off because males who tagged females secured more matings in the long run than males who simply mated with females as soon as they found them.

As for females, even though they are just as willing to mate with males who court immediately as with those who tag first, there could still be a way in which the females are indirectly choosing their males.

A male who swiftly finds and tags a female is probably in good physical condition, and may well have good genes. So if a female is tagged, she might secure good genes for her offspring by keeping herself for that male, thereby resisting later propositions.

In effect, the females might have a policy of "first come, first served" on the assumption that the first males to arrive are probably the best.

The study has been published in the journal Behavioural Processes. (ANI)

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