Sexual selection in social insects

Boris Baer

in The Evolution of Insect Mating Systems

Published in print July 2014 | ISBN: 9780199678020
Published online October 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191788987 | DOI:
Sexual selection in social insects

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  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Zoology and Animal Sciences


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Parasites and pathogens, including genomic parasites, are ubiquitous and key agents in shaping insect mating systems. Theoretically, parasites and parasitoids can maintain genetic variation in traits involved in mate choice, and selective pressures by parasitoids are known to cause marked shifts in the mating signals of several species. Recent research has focused on insect immune defence, and the way in which investment in immunity is traded off against reproductive effort. Individuals with more robust immunity are likely to have higher mating success or more highly elaborate ornaments; in other instances, this relationship is reversed, requiring further studies to quantify the link between host condition, immune responses, and sexual signals. In contrast, selfish genetic elements and endosymbionts such as Wolbachia do not appear to play an important role in affecting mate choice, but they can influence male and female mating rates, frequently compromising male fertility and sperm competitive ability, and thus indirectly influencing sexual selection.

Keywords: immunity; parasites; Wolbachia; selfish genetic elements; sexual selection; sperm competition; male fertility; female mating rates

Chapter.  5572 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology ; Zoology and Animal Sciences

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