Section 10
Chapter 9,500

Swarming behavior, sexual dimorphism, and female reproductive status in the sex role-reversed dance fly species Rhamphomyia marginata

Svensson, B.G.

Journal of Insect Behavior 10(6): 783-804


ISSN/ISBN: 0892-7553
DOI: 10.1023/b:joir.0000010413.20596.28
Accession: 009499085

Dance flies are predaceous insects which often form male mating swarms. In many species males prior to swarming catch an insect prey, which is presented to the female at mating. In Rhamphomyia marginata, females in contrast to males gather to swarm, while males carrying a prey visit swarms for mating. Here I describe the swarming and courtship behavior in R. marginata and provide data on sexual dimorphism and swarming female reproductive status. Females swarm in small clearings in the forests. There was no specific swarm-maker. The swarming period lasted for 2-3 h and peaked around sunset. Identical swarm sites were used each evening and for several years. The mean number of females in swarms (swarm sites with at least one female) was 9.9 +- 9.1 (range, 1-40; n = 107) in 1993 and 7.1 +- 7.0 (range, 1-35; n = 68 in 1994. No obvious competition between females in swarms was observed. The operational sex ratio in swarms was extremely female biased (all swarms, 0.04). Less than one-third of male visits to swarms resulted in mating and males were found more often in larger swarms. Nuptial prey consisted of male midges. Females seem to mate more than once. Swarming females had undeveloped eggs, whereas mated females in swarms had further developed eggs than unmated females. Amount of sperm in the spermatheca was correlated with egg size. Amount of sperm and egg size did not correlate with wet weight, wing length, or wing load, except for egg size and weight. The wing coloration pattern and shape in R. marginata females are unique among dance flies, being greatly enlarged (1.6 times larger than that of males) and bicolored (gray part, 60% of wing area). When females, instead of males, possess extravagant secondary sexual characters, it is predicted from sexual selection theory that females should compete for males and that males should be selective in their choice of partner. A sex-role reversal will evolve when assess to males limit female reproductive success. The dance fly species R. marginata, like Empis borealis, another dance fly species studied earlier and discussed here, seems to fit these predictions.

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