Sara Seidita, “Lifetime Changes in Mate Choosiness in Enchenopa binotata Treehoppers (Hemiptera: Membracidae)”
Mentors: Rafael Rodríguez Sevilla & Bretta Speck, Biological Sciences
Mate choice decisions are influenced by choosiness, the effort individuals are prepared to invest in securing their preferred mate types. We tested the hypothesis that females adjust choosiness as they age, because they are selected to attempt to obtain preferred mate types while ensuring that mating occurs. This hypothesis predicts that choosiness will decrease over a female’s lifetime (a pattern expected due to the diminishing availability of males over the course of the mating season). We tested this prediction with 60 female Enchenopa treehoppers, herbivorous insects that communicate with plant-borne vibrational signals. We assessed female responses from first sexual maturity until death using vibrational playbacks and laser vibrometry. We measured choosiness as the difference in female duetting effort with attractive versus unattractive vibrational playbacks. We found that female choosiness decreased with age, while their mass did not, indicating that the change in choosiness was not simply due to decreasing condition. Choosiness plays a significant role in mate choice decisions throughout the female treehoppers’ lifetime. The decrease in choosiness gives an increased availability in mate selection which is important for biological fitness in nature.
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