Shorter lives for male fruit flies forced to compete

May 19, 2014
fruit fly
fruit fly

A University of Liverpool study of fruit flies has revealed that males forced to compete with other males become less attractive to females and die young.

In the test, male of the species Drosophila subobscura were kept either alone or in groups. The of this species are monandrous – they only mate once in their lives, meaning that males have to get very lucky to mate at all. As a result males compete furiously for access to females.

Evolutionary biologist, Dr Anne Lizé, who led the study said: "When we see stags fighting over mates, it's obvious what the potential costs to the males are, but in this case it's more subtle. The flies aren't using antlers to beat each other into submission, but instead are harassing each other to the point where exhaustion causes them to die young."

Dr Lizé and her colleagues from the University's Institute of Integrative Biology, think that rivals disrupt the flies' sleep patterns, which has already been identified as a cause of early death in many other species, and is potentially harmful to humans.

Males exposed to rivals fare even worse when they finally do meet a virgin female. Females strongly prefer the males that were kept alone, with females refusing to mate with three quarters of the that previously had to battle with rivals.

Dr Lizé concluded: "The idea that competition has more subtle effects on a male could be extended to other species that humans are trying to breed or keep healthy."

Explore further: Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

More information: Extreme cost of rivalry in a monandrous species: male–male interactions result in failure to acquire mates and reduced longevity, Published 14 May 2014 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0631

Related Stories

Male extinction prevented by promiscuous females

Apr 01, 2014

Female fruit flies with a large number of sexual partners are playing an invaluable role in preventing the extinction of males, research at the University of Liverpool has shown.

'Paranoia' about rivals alters insect mating behavior

Aug 08, 2011

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that male fruitflies experience a type of 'paranoia' in the presence of another male, which doubles the length of time they mate with a female, despite the female of the ...

Flies with brothers make gentler lovers

Jan 22, 2014

Flies living with their brothers cause less harm to females during courting than those living with unrelated flies, say Oxford University scientists.

Recommended for you

Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

15 hours ago

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope ...

Godwits are flexible... when they get the chance

May 29, 2015

Black-tailed godwits are able to cope with unpredictable weather. This was revealed by a thorough analysis of the extraordinary spring of 2013 by ecologist Nathan Senner of the University of Groningen and ...

Do you have the time? Flies sure do

May 28, 2015

Flies might be smarter than you think. According to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 28, fruit flies know what time of day it is. What's more, the insects can learn to con ...

User comments : 0

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.