SciCombinator

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Concept: Mating

144

The abundance of sperm relative to eggs selects for males that maximize their number of mates and for females that choose high quality males. However, in many species, males exercise mate choice, even when they invest little in their offspring. Sexual cannibalism may promote male choosiness by limiting the number of females a male can inseminate and by biasing the sex ratio toward females because, while females can reenter the mating pool, cannibalized males cannot. These effects may be insufficient for male choosiness to evolve, however, if males face low sequential encounter rates with females. We hypothesized that sexual cannibalism should facilitate the evolution of male choosiness in group living species because a male is likely to encounter multiple receptive females simultaneously. We tested this hypothesis in a colonial orb-weaving spider, Cyrtophora citricola, with a high rate of sexual cannibalism. We tested whether mated females would mate with multiple males, and thereby shift the operational sex ratio toward females. We also investigated whether either sex chooses mates based on nutritional state and age, and whether males choose females based on reproductive state. We found that females are readily polyandrous and exhibit no mate choice related to male feeding or age. Males courted more often when the male was older and the female was younger, and males copulated more often with well-fed females. The data show that males are choosier than females for the traits we measured, supporting our hypothesis that group living and sexual cannibalism may together promote the evolution of male mate choice.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Spermatozoon, Mating

126

The high energetic demand of parental care requires parents to direct their resources towards the support of existing offspring rather than investing into the production of additional young. However, how such a resource flow is channelled appropriately is poorly understood. In this study, we provide the first comprehensive analysis of the physiological mechanisms coordinating parental and mating effort in an insect exhibiting biparental care. We show a hormone-mediated infertility in female burying beetles during the time the current offspring is needy and report that this temporary infertility is communicated via a pheromone to the male partner, where it inhibits copulation. A shared pathway of hormone and pheromone system ensures the reliability of the anti-aphrodisiac. Female infertility and male sexual abstinence provide for the concerted investment of parental resources into the existing developing young. Our study thus contributes to our deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying adaptive parental decisions.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Sexual intercourse, Reproduction, Insect, Sex, Fertility, Mating, Parental investment

115

We analyzed one decade of data collected by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), including the mathematics and reading performance of nearly 1.5 million 15 year olds in 75 countries. Across nations, boys scored higher than girls in mathematics, but lower than girls in reading. The sex difference in reading was three times as large as in mathematics. There was considerable variation in the extent of the sex differences between nations. There are countries without a sex difference in mathematics performance, and in some countries girls scored higher than boys. Boys scored lower in reading in all nations in all four PISA assessments (2000, 2003, 2006, 2009). Contrary to several previous studies, we found no evidence that the sex differences were related to nations' gender equality indicators. Further, paradoxically, sex differences in mathematics were consistently and strongly inversely correlated with sex differences in reading: Countries with a smaller sex difference in mathematics had a larger sex difference in reading and vice versa. We demonstrate that this was not merely a between-nation, but also a within-nation effect. This effect is related to relative changes in these sex differences across the performance continuum: We did not find a sex difference in mathematics among the lowest performing students, but this is where the sex difference in reading was largest. In contrast, the sex difference in mathematics was largest among the higher performing students, and this is where the sex difference in reading was smallest. The implication is that if policy makers decide that changes in these sex differences are desired, different approaches will be needed to achieve this for reading and mathematics. Interventions that focus on high-achieving girls in mathematics and on low achieving boys in reading are likely to yield the strongest educational benefits.

Concepts: Male, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Sexual selection, Gender, Sex, Student, Mating

67

Courtship behaviours, frequent among modern insects, have left extremely rare fossil traces. None are known previously for fossil odonatans. Fossil traces of such behaviours are better known among the vertebrates, e.g. the hypertelic antlers of the Pleistocene giant deer Megaloceros giganteus. Here we describe spectacular extremely expanded, pod-like tibiae in males of a platycnemidid damselfly from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Such structures in modern damselflies, help to fend off other suitors as well as attract mating females, increasing the chances of successful mating. Modern Platycnemidinae and Chlorocyphidae convergently acquired similar but less developed structures. The new findings provide suggestive evidence of damselfly courtship behaviour as far back as the mid-Cretaceous. These data show an unexpected morphological disparity in dancing damselfly leg structure, and shed new light on mechanisms of sexual selection involving intra- and intersex reproductive competition during the Cretaceous.

Concepts: Reproduction, Deer, Fertility, Elk, Mating, Moose, Irish Elk, Megaloceros

43

Matchmaking companies and theoretical perspectives on close relationships suggest that initial attraction is, to some extent, a product of two people’s self-reported traits and preferences. We used machine learning to test how well such measures predict people’s overall tendencies to romantically desire other people (actor variance) and to be desired by other people (partner variance), as well as people’s desire for specific partners above and beyond actor and partner variance (relationship variance). In two speed-dating studies, romantically unattached individuals completed more than 100 self-report measures about traits and preferences that past researchers have identified as being relevant to mate selection. Each participant met each opposite-sex participant attending a speed-dating event for a 4-min speed date. Random forests models predicted 4% to 18% of actor variance and 7% to 27% of partner variance; crucially, however, they were unable to predict relationship variance using any combination of traits and preferences reported before the dates. These results suggest that compatibility elements of human mating are challenging to predict before two people meet.

Concepts: Scientific method, Future, Machine learning, Interpersonal relationship, Mating, Interpersonal attraction, Dating, Dating system

34

Sex differences in some preferences and motivations are well established, but it is unclear whether they persist in selective sub-populations, such as expert financial decision makers, top scientists, or elite athletes. We addressed this issue by studying competitiveness in 1,147 varsity intercollegiate distance runners. As expected, across all runners, men reported greater competitiveness with two previously validated instruments, greater competitiveness on a new elite competitiveness scale, and greater training volume, a known correlate of competitiveness. Among faster runners, the sex difference decreased for one measure of competitiveness but did not decrease for the two other competitiveness measures or either measure of training volume. Across NCAA athletic divisions (DI, DII, DIII), the sex difference did not decrease for any competitiveness or training measure. Further analyses showed that these sex differences could not be attributed to women suffering more injuries or facing greater childcare responsibilities. However, women did report greater commitment than men to their academic studies, suggesting a sex difference in priorities. Therefore, policies aiming to provide men and women with equal opportunities to flourish should acknowledge that sex differences in some kinds of preferences and motivation may persist even in selective sub-populations.

Concepts: Natural selection, Male, Sexual dimorphism, Sexual selection, Gender, Sex, Motivation, Mating

31

Many biological functions are conserved, but the extent to which conservation applies to integrative behaviors is unknown. Vasopressin and oxytocin neuropeptides are strongly implicated in mammalian reproductive and social behaviors, yet rodent loss-of-function mutants have relatively subtle behavioral defects. Here we identify an oxytocin/vasopressin-like signaling system in Caenorhabditis elegans, consisting of a peptide and two receptors that are expressed in sexually dimorphic patterns. Males lacking the peptide or its receptors perform poorly in reproductive behaviors, including mate search, mate recognition, and mating, but other sensorimotor behaviors are intact. Quantitative analysis indicates that mating motor patterns are fragmented and inefficient in mutants, suggesting that oxytocin/vasopressin peptides increase the coherence of mating behaviors. These results indicate that conserved molecules coordinate diverse behavioral motifs in reproductive behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Sexual intercourse, Reproduction, Sexual dimorphism, Oxytocin, Sex, Behavior, Mating

27

Women recover faster from propofol anaesthesia and have been described to have a higher incidence of awareness during surgery, compared to men; an effect that may be inherent in sex differences in propofol metabolism.

Concepts: Male, Sexual dimorphism, Sexual selection, Gender, Sex, Sexual reproduction, Mating, Operational sex ratio

26

In mammalian and insect models of ethanol intoxication, low doses of ethanol stimulate locomotor activity whereas high doses induce sedation. Sex differences in acute ethanol responses, which occur in humans, have not been characterized in Drosophila. In this study, we find that male flies show increased ethanol hyperactivity and greater resistance to ethanol sedation compared with females. We show that the sex determination gene transformer (tra) acts in the developing nervous system, likely through regulation of fruitless (fru), to at least partially mediate the sexual dimorphism in ethanol sedation. Although pharmacokinetic differences may contribute to the increased sedation sensitivity of females, neuronal tra expression regulates ethanol sedation independently of ethanol pharmacokinetics. We also show that acute activation of fru-expressing neurons affects ethanol sedation, further supporting a role for fru in regulating this behavior. Thus, we have characterized previously undescribed sex differences in behavioral responses to ethanol, and implicated fru in mediating a subset of these differences.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Male, Insect, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Mating

25

Copulation is the goal of the courtship process, crucial to reproductive success and evolutionary fitness. Identifying the circuitry underlying copulation is a necessary step towards understanding universal principles of circuit operation, and how circuit elements are recruited into the production of ordered action sequences. Here, we identify key sex-specific neurons that mediate copulation in Drosophila, and define a sexually dimorphic motor circuit in the male abdominal ganglion that mediates the action sequence of initiating and terminating copulation. This sexually dimorphic circuit composed of three neuronal classes - motor neurons, interneurons and mechanosensory neurons - controls the mechanics of copulation. By correlating the connectivity, function and activity of these neurons we have determined the logic for how this circuitry is coordinated to generate this male-specific behavior, and sets the stage for a circuit-level dissection of active sensing and modulation of copulatory behavior.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Spinal cord, Ganglion, Sexual dimorphism, Sex, Mating, Fitness