Mating that causes injuries

February 20, 2009

Researchers at Uppsala University can now show that what is good for one sex is not always good for the other sex. In fact, evolutionary conflicts between the two sexes cause characteristics and behaviors that are downright injurious to the opposite sex. The findings are being published in the scientific journal Current Biology.

In both males and females in the animal world it is common - much more common that one might like to think - for one sex to evince characteristics and properties that are injurious to individuals of the other sex, according to Professor Göran Arnqvist at the Department of Ecology and Evolution, who adds:

"One especially tricky case involves species where the males have mating organs that are supplied with hooks, barbs, and flukes that cause internal injuries in females during mating. This is extremely common among insects, but it also occurs in many other animal groups."

The Uppsala scientists have studied seed beetles and their mating behavior. Göran relates that the males' mating organ is rather similar to a medieval spiked club and that it causes severe wounds in females during mating. But since it is never a good idea for a male merely to injure a female, the researchers have assumed that these structures serve another purpose and that the injury is an unfortunate side effect.

"Females' injuries as such do not benefit the male she mated with. It has been suggested rather that the injuries are a side effect of other benefits the males reap from the barbs. Now, for the first time, we are able to show that this is the case," says Göran Arnqvist.

Despite these costs, females mate with multiple males.

"We also show that males with long barbs cause more severe injuries to females, but also that these males have a greater rate of fertilization success," says Göran Arnqvist.

The barbs are thus extremely important to males in their competition to be able to fertilize an egg. When females mate with two males, it is more often the male with the longer barbs that fertilizes her eggs.

Source: Uppsala University

Explore further: Study says cheerleading could help challenge gender stereotypes

Related Stories

Body odor sets female rhesus monkeys apart

November 2, 2015

Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) make use of their sense of smell to distinguish between members of their own and other social groups, according to new research, led by Stefanie Henkel (University of Leipzig, Germany), published ...

Frogs pit guns against sperm in battle for mates

October 29, 2015

Males competing for female attention is nothing new but research into frogs in swamps near Albany has revealed something unusual—larger, stronger-armed males fare better fathering offspring in isolation while smaller, weaker ...

US-born Sumatran rhino in Indonesia on mating mission

November 1, 2015

A U.S.-born Sumatran rhino arrived in his ancestral home of Indonesia on Sunday, making the long journey from Cincinnati, Ohio, on a mission to mate to help save his critically endangered species from extinction.

Fighting citrus greening with vibrating orange groves

November 3, 2015

When a male Asian Citrus Psyllid is looking for a mate, he situates himself on a twig, buzzes his wings to send vibrations along adjacent leaves and branches, and listens for a female's response call. If the call comes, he ...

Recommended for you

A blue, neptune-size exoplanet around a red dwarf star

November 25, 2015

A team of astronomers have used the LCOGT network to detect light scattered by tiny particles (called Rayleigh scattering), through the atmosphere of a Neptune-size transiting exoplanet. This suggests a blue sky on this world ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

November 25, 2015

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.