University Of Tasmania

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Mating frequency and reproductive success in an income breeding moth: Mnesampela privata (Lepidoptera: Geometridae)

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 03:04 authored by Walker, PW, Geoff AllenGeoff Allen
The frequency of mating in insects is often an important determinant of female reproductive output and male sperm competition. In Lepidoptera that provide male nutrients to the female when mating, it is hypothesized that polyandry may be more prevalent. This is thought to be especially so among species described as income breeders; that is, in species who do not derive all their nutrients for reproductive output entirely from the resources obtained during the larval stage. We selected the geometrid moth, Mnesampela privata (Guenée) (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), to examine this hypothesis further. We found this species was best characterized as an income breeder with female weight on emergence positively correlated with total egg load but not with the number of eggs laid. Further, in accord with income breeders, females emerged with a partially developed egg load and lifetime fecundity was positively correlated with the number of oviposition days. However, in the laboratory we found that incidence of repeated matings or polyandry was rare. When moths were paired singly over their lifetime, only 4% of mated females multiple mated. When females were paired with three males concurrently, female mating success increased from 60 to 81% with multiple mating among mated females increasing to just 15%. Dissection of wild caught M. privata found that polyandry levels were also low with a maximum of 16.4% of females collected at any one time being multiple mated. In accord with theory, mating significantly increased the longevity of females, but not of males, suggesting that females acquire essential resources from male ejaculates. Despite this, multiple mated females showed a trend toward decreasing rather than increasing female reproductive output. Spermatophore size, measured on death of the female, was not correlated with male or female forewing length but was negatively correlated with the number of fertile eggs laid and female longevity. Smaller spermatophore width may be related to uptake of more nutrients by the female from a spermatophore. We discuss our findings in relation to income breeding and its relationship to polyandry in Lepidoptera.


Publication title

Entomologia Experimentalis Et Applicata








Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

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Socio-economic Objectives

Hardwood plantations