Extreme reproducive conflict: sexual cannibalism, female deception and the evolution of male mate choice.

A project undertaken at the Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, and supervised by Katherine Barry

This project address the intersection of two of the most enigmatic phenomena in the evolution of reproductive strategies: sexual cannibalism and male mate choice. Sexual cannibalism represents an extreme manifestation of sexual conflict in many systems, and male mate choice in systems without paternal care continues to challenge our understanding of gender roles within the framework of sexual selection. Specifically, I will investigate female driven sexual conflict and its effect on male mating strategies by studying three key sets of behavioural adaptations in sexually cannibalistic praying mantids:

  1. deceptive signaling by females,
  2. pre-copulatory male mate choice, and
  3. post-copulatory male mating strategies.

Together, these studies will contribute significantly to our understanding of the evolution of sex roles, sexual conflict and reproductive strategies.

Figure 1. Large gravid female mantid

Figure 2. Dr Kate Barry releases an adult mantid at her field site in West Pymble, Sydney

Figure 3. A headless male mantid continues to mate with his female attacker