Female Genitalia Concealment Promotes Intimate Male Courtship in a Water Strider
Violent coercive mating initiation is typical for animals with sexual conflict over mating. In these species, the coevolutionary arms-race between female defenses against coercive mating and male counter-adaptations for increased mating success leads to coevolutionary chases of male and female traits that influence the mating. It has been controversial whether one of the sexes can evolve traits that allow them to “win” this arms race. Here, we use morphological analysis (traditional and scanning electron micrographs), laboratory experiments and comparative methods to show how females of a species characterized by typical coercive mating initiation appear to “win” a particular stage of the sexual conflict by evolving morphology to hide their genitalia from direct, forceful access by males. In an apparent response to the female morphological adaptation, males of this species added to their typically violent coercive mounting of the female new post-mounting, pre-copulatory courtship signals produced by tapping the water’s surface with the mid-legs. These courtship signals are intimate in the sense that they are aimed at the female, on whom the male is already mounted. Females respond to the signals by exposing their hidden genitalia for copulatory intromission. Our results indicate that the apparent victory of coevolutionary arms race by one sex in terms of morphology may trigger evolution of a behavioral phenotype in the opposite sex.
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