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Courtship behavior of nasonia vitripennis hymenoptera pteromalidae observations and experiments on male readiness to assume copulatory behavior


, : Courtship behavior of nasonia vitripennis hymenoptera pteromalidae observations and experiments on male readiness to assume copulatory behavior. Behaviour 68(1-2): 118-135

A male of the pteromalid wasp N. vitripennis usually induces sexual receptivity in a conspecific virgin female upon their 1st encounter. Following a sequence of courtship she will open her genital orifice and, at the same time, draw the antennae tightly to her head. The antennal movement acts as a signal for the male who is positioned on the female's dorsum, far to the front, with his fore tarsi placed on the female's head. As soon as the male perceives the antennal movement by the female he backs up and establishes genital contact. Nodding movements with the head are a conspicuous part of the courtship display of a male Nasonia. Females will signal sexual receptivity only at 1st head nods of series. This coincidence is probably due to the periodic release at the onset of a head series of a pheromone by the courting male. The female's receptivity signal can be simulated by pushing down the antennae (of an unreceptive female) with an extremely fine watercolour brush. A pseudo-signal produced at an appropriate moment (a 1st head nod) scored a high percent of backing-up responses by courting males. Pseudo-signals produced at other times released fewer backing-up reactions or none at all. During courtship a male's tendency to back up is not constant but fluctuates. Periods of maximal responsiveness occur shortly before the onset of a head series and with 1st and 2nd nods. The organization of male courtship is rigid; the timing of maximal responsiveness can be predicted accurately once the interval between 1st and 2nd head series is known. Unreceptive females are courted for limited periods and males will dismount without making an attempt to copulate. Comparative work argues that periodic readiness on the part of the male must be understood as an advanced situation, a continuous readiness being the ancestral condition. Speculation is offered about functional aspects of periodic responsiveness.

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