Lustful beetles desire water, not sex

Mar 05, 2009 By Megan Easton
Seed beetles mating.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Female seed beetles are known for their promiscuity, a surprising fact given that the males of the species have dangerously sharp spikes on their sex organs. Now a U of T Mississauga team led by an undergraduate student has discovered that this perplexing hunger for sex may in fact be driven by a thirst for water.

The female's desire to mate multiple times appears to be linked to her need for hydration, which she receives from males during copulation, says lead researcher Claudia Ursprung. The beetles live in arid environments where the benefits of being hydrated likely offset the potential damage to the female reproductive tract from the male's sharp edges.

"The male seed beetle's ejaculate is very large for its body size - close to 10 per cent of its body weight - and we wanted to know whether there was something that he was giving to the female to make her want to come back for multiple matings," said Ursprung, who conducted the study in 2007 for her fourth-year thesis in the lab of biology professor Darryl Gwynne. The research was published in a recent issue of the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

"Males of many insects transfer substances in the ejaculate to females," said Gwynne, a co-author on the paper. "With this beetle, 'drinks and food' were the two likely material benefits from male ejaculate."

To test their hypothesis, the researchers contained 79 female seed beetles for eight days in one of four groups receiving either water, sugar-water, food or nothing. When virgin male seed beetles arrived on the scene, only the females receiving water and sugar-water showed less than their usual interest in coupling. Female beetles who received water in the experiment also had a longer lifespan.

"We were surprised that water and not food was the important factor in the female's mating behaviour, because in other species it's often a matter of receiving nutrition from the male," said Ursprung, now a second-year student in veterinary medicine at the University of Guelph.

Provided by University of Toronto

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Culinary biomimicry

Oct 10, 2013

(Phys.org) —As any chef knows, preparing good food is just physics, or was that chemistry? Either way, the state of the art in cooking increasingly looks to science for inspiration. Engineers at MIT have ...

Skilled hunters 300,000 years ago

Sep 17, 2012

Finds from early stone age site in north-central Germany show that human ingenuity is nothing new – and was probably shared by now-extinct species of humans.

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.