Males use multiple, redundant cues to detect mating rivals

Amanda Bretman, James D. Westmancoat, Matthew J. G. Gage, Tracey Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Across many species, males exhibit plastic responses when they encounter mating rivals [1]. The ability to tailor responses to the presence of rivals allows males to increase investment in reproduction only when necessary. This is important given that reproduction imposes costs [2] that limit male reproductive capacity, particularly when sperm competition occurs [[3] and [4]]. Fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster) males exposed to rivals subsequently mate for longer and thus accrue fitness benefits under increased competition [5], in line with theory [[6] and [7]]. Here, we show that male D. melanogaster detect rivals by using a suite of cues and that the resulting responses lead directly to significant fitness benefits. We used multiple techniques to systematically remove auditory, olfactory, tactile, and visual cues, first singly and then in all possible combinations. No single cue alone was sufficient to allow males to detect rivals. However, the perception of any two cues from sound, smell, or touch permitted males to detect and respond adaptively to rivals through increased offspring production. Vision was only of marginal importance in this context. The findings indicate adaptive redundancy through the use of multiple, but interchangeable, cues. We reveal the robust mechanisms by which males assess their socio-sexual environment to precisely attune responses via the expression of plastic behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-622
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2011

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