The effect of diet and parasite load on female phonotaxis in the Texas field cricket, Gryllus integer
MacDougall, Donald Allen.
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Female crickets respond selectively to variations in species-specific male calling songs. This selectivity has been shown to be age-dependent; older females are less choosy. However, female quality should also affect female selectivity. The effect of female quality on mate choice was examined in Gryllus integer by comparing the phonotactic responses of females on different diets and with different parasite loads to various synthetic models of conspecific calling song. Test females were virgin, 11-14 days old, and had been maintained on one of five diets varying in protein and fat content. Phonotaxis was quantified using a non-compensating Kugel treadmill which generates vector scores incorporating the speed and direction of movement of each female. Test females were presented with four calling song models which differed in pulse rate, but were still within the natural range of the species for the experimental temperature. After testing, females were dissected and the number of gregarine parasites within the digestive tract counted. There were no significant effects of either diet or parasitism on female motivation to mate although the combined effects of these variables seem to have an effect with no apparent trend. Control females did not discriminate among song types, but there was a trend of female preferences for lower pulse rates which are closest to the mean pulse rate for the species. Heavily parasitized females did not discriminate among pulse rates altho~gh there was a similar trend of high vector scores for low pulse rates. Diet, however, affected selectivity with poorly-fed females showing significantly high vector scores for pulse rates near the species mean. Such findings raise interesting questions about energy allocation and costs and risks of phonotaxis and mate choice in acoustic Orthoptera. These results are discussed in terms of sexual selection and female mate choice.