Abstracts (first author)
Sneaking behaviour in young males: alternative male mating phenotypes in the two-spotted spider mite
Sneaking behaviour as a strategy to compete for females has been observed in many taxa from insects to mammals. Often, the less competitive males who would lose contests over females against stronger males, display sneaking behavior in that they deceive their rivals by pretending to be female. To understand the evolution of observed sneaking behaviour, it is important to elucidate the mechanisms maintaining alternative mating strategies. Recently, we found three male mating phenotypes in a population of the two-spotted spider mite: territorial, sneaking and opportunistic. Opportunistic males wander around in search of females that are about to moult into the adult phase (teleiochrysalis). Territorial males spend much time in a mounted position on the dorsum of the teleiochrysalis females, and guard them by fighting intruding rival males. Sneaker males also spend much time in a mounted position, but they never show aggressive behaviour against intruders. Intruding males easily find and attack territorial males but fail to notice or even ignore sneaker males. Here, we focus on territorial and sneaker males in the two-spotted spider mite, and investigate which males display sneaking behaviour and how effective the sneaking behaviour is against territorial males. We show that young males display sneaking behaviour more often, and that young territorial males are three times more likely to lose their mounted position to old territorial males than young sneaker males. Old males are always territorial and rarely lose their position on the female dorsum to young males. Finally, young territorial males are observed to change their mating strategy to that of sneaker in the presence of old males. Our results suggest that old males are superior to young males in contests over females, and that in response to old males young males can phenotypically switch to sneaker behavior, thereby possibly improving their mating success.