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See detailDissecting the mechanisms underlying old male mating advantage in a butterfly
Karl, Isabell; Heuskin, Stéphanie ULg; Fischer, Klaus

in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (2013)

Selection is expected to maximize an individual’s own genetic reward regardless of the potential fitness consequences for its sexual partners, which may cause sexual conflict. Although performance in ... [more ▼]

Selection is expected to maximize an individual’s own genetic reward regardless of the potential fitness consequences for its sexual partners, which may cause sexual conflict. Although performance in holometabolous insects typically diminishes with age, old male mating advantage has been documented in a few species. Whether this pattern arises from female preference for older males based on, e.g., pheromone blends (intersexual selection), or from increased eagerness to mate in older compared to younger males is currently debated. We explore the mechanistic basis of old male mating advantage, using a series of experiments including behavioral as well as manipulative approaches, in the tropical butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Consistent with the residual reproductive value hypothesis, old male mating advantage was associated with a greater eagerness to mate, evidenced by a two times higher flying and courting activity in older than in younger males. In contrast, we found only limited support for a contribution of female preference for older males based on pheromone composition, although male sex pheromones clearly do play a role in mating success. Our results suggest that male behavior may play a primary role in old male mating advantage, and that pheromones are likely of secondary importance only. Male mating success was related to higher overall pheromone titers rather than variation in a single component. A dominant importance of male behavior in determining mating success may result in sexual conflict. [less ▲]

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See detailDisplaying in the dark: light-dependent alternative mating tactics in the Alpine newt
Denoël, Mathieu ULg; Doellen, Joffrey

in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (2010), 64(7), 1171-1175

Environment plays a major role for determining the kind of courtship behaviours or alternative mating tactics employed, but the effect of physical variables on fitness has received little attention. The ... [more ▼]

Environment plays a major role for determining the kind of courtship behaviours or alternative mating tactics employed, but the effect of physical variables on fitness has received little attention. The Alpine newt courts during both day and night times and exhibits a complex suite of behaviours involving olfactory, visual and tactile cues. Displaying in both dark and light conditions may increase the number of mating opportunities and alleviate predation risk, but the frequency and efficacy of the various tactics deployed may vary across light conditions, leading males to vary their use of these tactics across different light regimes. To test this hypothesis, we video-recorded sexual encounters at two light intensities in a controlled experimental design. When courting in the dark, males used comparatively more olfactory rather than visual displays. They also relied more on positive feedback from the female before releasing a spermatophore for her to pick up. The particular mix of tactics used under each light condition is likely to be adaptive because in the dark (1) visual communication is hampered, making olfactory displays possibly more effective and (2) males depositing spermatophores are more likely to lose fertilizations to competitors. Mating in light and dark conditions has similar reproductive payoffs, which shows that displaying in the dark is not detrimental and may even be advantageous if predation risk is reduced at night. These results confirm the importance of taking into account physical variables to understand the evolution of sexual communication in animals. [less ▲]

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See detailEffect of water temperature on the courtship behavior of the Alpine newt Triturus alpestris
Denoël, Mathieu ULg; Mathieu, Maryève; Poncin, Pascal ULg

in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (2005), 58(2), 121-127

Temperature is expected to have an effect on the behavioral patterns of all organisms, especially ectotherms. However, although several studies focused on the effect of temperature on acoustic displays in ... [more ▼]

Temperature is expected to have an effect on the behavioral patterns of all organisms, especially ectotherms. However, although several studies focused on the effect of temperature on acoustic displays in both insects and anurans, almost nothing is known about how environmental temperature may affect ectotherm visual courtship displays and sexual performance. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of environmental temperature on the sexual behavior of Alpine newts (Triturus alpestris). We subjected T. alpestris to two different temperatures in controlled laboratory conditions. Temperature had a major effect on both male and female behaviors: at low temperature, the frequencies of several displays, including tail-raising during sperm deposition, are lowered. This variation is caused indirectly by temperature because it is due to female responsiveness, which is temperature-dependent. However, the fanning movement of the male's tail during its main courtship display is independent of female behavior: at lower temperatures, the tail beats at a lower rate, but for a longer time. The similar reproductive success (i.e. sperm transfer) at the two temperature ranges indicates that breeding in cold water is not costly but instead allows males and females to mate early in the season. This is particularly adaptive because, in many habitats, the reproductive period is shortened by drying or freezing conditions, which may impair survival of branchiate offspring. This study also demonstrates the necessity of considering environmental parameters when modeling optimality and characteristics of ectotherm behaviors. [less ▲]

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See detailPaedomorphosis in the Alpine newt (Triturus alpestris): decoupling behavioural and morphological change
Denoël, Mathieu ULg

in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (2002), 52(5), 394-399

Paedomorphosis is a heterochronic pattern leading to morphological change, i.e. retention of larval characters in the adult phenotype. The aim of this study was to find out whether behaviour and ... [more ▼]

Paedomorphosis is a heterochronic pattern leading to morphological change, i.e. retention of larval characters in the adult phenotype. The aim of this study was to find out whether behaviour and morphology are decoupled in heterochronic phenotypes. To this end, I compared qualitative and quantitative aspects of courtship behaviour in syntopic metamorphic and paedomorphic Alpine newts, Triturus alpestris. Morphologically, the two morphs differ considerably (e.g. by the presence of gills only in paedomorphs), but their patterns of sexual behaviours are exhibited at similar frequencies and males use the same alternative reproductive tactics to attract unresponsive females. These results show that morphology and behaviour follow different ontogenetic pathways and are thus decoupled. Decoupling of the two traits offers the possibility of morphological evolution without alteration of sexual patterns. [less ▲]

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