Sexual Selection and Reproductive Isolation in Field Crickets
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Some of the work in the thesis is still to be published, and potential publishers will not accept work that is accessible elsewhere.
Barriers to interbreeding limit gene flow between sister taxa, leading to reproductive isolation and the maintenance of distinct species. These barriers come in many forms, and can act at different stages in the reproductive process. Pre-copulatory barriers may be due to individuals discriminating against heterospecifics in mate choice decisions. These decisions may be informed through a range of sensory modalities. If a female is mated and inseminated, then there may be multiple postmating-prezygotic barriers that affect the success of heterospecific sperm in attaining fertilisations. Post-zygotic barriers can be very early acting, resulting in embryonic fatality, or may be later acting, affecting the fitness of hybrid offspring. In this thesis I investigate potential reproductive barriers between the interbreeding field crickets Gryllus bimaculatus and G. campestris. I find that females of both species show only weak preference for conspecific calling song, and may even respond phonotactically to songs typical of heterospecific males. Female G. bimaculatus are repeatable in their preferences and strength of response. G. bimaculatus females presented with synthetic songs prefer those with longer inter-pulse intervals, whereas G. campestris show no discrimination between these songs. Upon meeting, G. campestris females strongly discriminate against heterospecific males, behaving aggressively towards them. This is likely driven by females responding to close range species recognition cues, including chemoreception. The species differ in their cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, and females that are no longer able to use their antennae to receive chemosensory information reduced their aggressive behaviour towards heterospecific males. G. bimaculatus females will mate with heterospecific males, though less readily than to conspecifics. When sequentially mated to both conspecific and heterospecific males, these females will preferentially take up and store sperm from the conspecific male, and sperm from conspecific males is more likely to sire offspring than would be predicted from the proportion of sperm in storage. Eggs from inter-species mating pairs are less likely to begin embryogenesis, and are more likely to suffer developmental arrest during the early stages of embryogenesis. However hybrid embryos that survive to later stages of development have hatching success similar to that of pure-bred embryos. After mating, phonotaxis of G. bimaculatus females towards male songs follows a pattern of suppression and subsequent recovery, likely triggered through detection of seminal proteins transferred in the male ejaculate, or detection of mechanical filling of the spermatheca. This pattern of suppression and recovery of phonotaxis does not differ between females mated to conspecific or heterospecific males. Females that lay few or no eggs do not experience a refractory period.
European Social Fund
PhD in Biological Sciences