Kin-Mediated Male Choice and Alternative Reproductive Tactics in Spider Mites

Biology

Abstract

Optimal outbreeding and kin selection theories state that the degree of kinship is a fundamental determinant in any mating system. However, the role of kinship in male choice and alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) is poorly known. We assessed the influence of kinship on male choice and expression of ARTs in two populations of two-spotted spider mites Tetranychus urticae. Male spider mites guard premature females, which is an indicator of mate choice, and may conditionally adopt fighting or sneaking tactics to secure access to females. Males competing with kin or non-kin were offered one kin or non-kin female (experiment 1) and single males were presented a choice of kin and non-kin females (experiment 2). Under kin competition, males of both populations were more prone to guard non-kin than kin females at a 3:1 fighter:sneaker ratio. Under non-kin competition, all males were fighters. Under no-choice, males used novelty as indicator of genetic dissimilarity, serving as absolute decision rule for outbreeding. Under choice, comparative evaluation allowed males to preferentially guard females with higher reproductive potential. Overall, our study suggests that male spider mites can assess kinship of rivals and prospective mates. Kin discrimination allows adaptive, context-specific non-random mating preference and adjustment of ARTs.

Schausberger, P., & Sato, Y. (2020). Kin-Mediated Male Choice and Alternative Reproductive Tactics in Spider Mites. Biology, 9(11). https://doi.org/10.3390/biology9110360