ABSTRACT: Mating plugs that males place onto the female genital tract are generally assumed to prevent remating with other males. Mating plugs are usually explained as a consequence of male-male competition in multiply mating species. Here, we investigated whether mating plugs also have collateral effects on female fitness. These effects are negative when plugging reduces female mating rate below an optimum. However, plugging may also be positive when plugging prevents excessive forced mating and keeps mating rate closer to a females' optimum. Here, we studied these consequences in the gonochoristic nematode Caenorhabditis remanei. We employed a new CO2-sedation technique to interrupt matings before or after the production of a plug. We then measured mating rate, attractiveness and offspring number.
The presence of a mating plug did not affect mating rate or attractiveness to roving males. Instead, females with mating plugs produced more offspring than females without copulatory plugs.
Our experiment suggests that plugging might have evolved under male-male competition but represents a poor protection against competing males in our experiment. Even if plugging does not reduce mating rate, our results indicate that females may benefit from being plugged in a different sense than remating prevention.
Frontiers in Zoology 11/2010; 7:28. · 4.46 Impact Factor