Sexual selection and sex allocation in the gregarious parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis
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Sex allocation and sexual selection have been heavily studied, but rarely linked. In this thesis I investigated the interface between them in the gregarious parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis, both directly and through their interactions with the mating system and sexual conflict. Chapter 2 investigated sexual selection and mating at the natal site: earlier eclosing males mated more females independently of body size. Nasonia follows Local Mate Competition, which describes how a female laying eggs alone on a patch of resources (a so-called single-foundress) should lay an extremely female-biased brood to minimise competition between her sons, yet ensure all her daughters are fertilised. Based on this I predicted that males with with fewer brothers would be better inseminators. Despite finding significant among-strain variation in (1) single-foundress sex ratio, (2) mate competitiveness when alone and (3) when in competition, (4) sperm resources, but not (5) sperm-depletion (Chapters 3 & 4), I did not find the predicted relationship. Conversely males from strains with more brothers had a higher mating success under competition (Chapter 3) leading to the question: does mating success select on sex ratio or vice versa? Either way it is a result of an interaction between sexual selection and sex allocation. Chapter 5 investigated the role of male post-copulatory courtship on female re-mating, and found that among-strain variation in female re-mating was not associated with variation in the duration of the post-copulatory courtship. Chapter 6 reviewed sexual conflict in the Hymenoptera: their haplodiploid genetics, newly sequenced genomes and varied life-histories provides a base for future research to build on. Finally I highlight the novel links between sexual selection, sex allocation, sexual conflict and the mating system found during my studies that will hopefully prompt future research on this topic.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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