Exploring the Influence of a Male-like Cuticular Hydrocarbon Profile on the Fertility and Fecundity of Two Hybridizing Field Crickets

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"Hydrocarbons comprise the cuticle of every insect, and are primarily responsible for desiccation resistance (waterproofing). Due to the variability of these cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), they have been co-opted for individual recognition and sexual signaling in the overwhelming majority of insect species. Their rapid evolution has also implicated them as an early pre-zygotic barrier, limiting hybridization and gene-flow between populations via behavioral isolation. In the present study, we studied the potential advantages of a particular female CHC profiles in two species of hybridizing field crickets: Gryllus pennsylvanicus and Gryllus firmus. Though males of both species have consistently similar CHC profiles, female CHC profiles are highly variable, with great variation even between individuals of the same species. Maroja et al., 2014 found that male mate choice in heterospecific G. firmus male and G. pennsylvanicus females pairings is mediated by female CHC profile, with males taking considerably less time to mate with females displaying typically male-like CHC profiles. We hypothesized that the females with male-like CHC profiles were more favored in heterospecific pairings because they were more fecund (produced more eggs) or fertile (laid more eggs that hatched) than non-male-like females. However, we found no significant difference in the fertility or fecundity between male-like and non-male-like females of either species after conspecific pairing. Instead, the benefit of our project was the compilation of a high-resolution dataset of ~230 individual CHC profiles that will prove useful in identifying the compounds present in the G. firmus and G. pennsylvanicus CHC profile."

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