Sperm transfer during mating, movement of sperm in the female reproductive tract, and sperm precedence in the common cutworm Spodoptera litura

R K Seth, J J Kaur, S E Reynolds

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Mating behaviour, sperm transfer and sperm precedence were studied in the moth Spodoptera litura (Fabr.) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). There existed a rhythmic, diel pattern of mating behaviour of this moth during the scotophase, presumably set with respect to an endogenous activity rhythm. Approximately 30 min after copulation had started, the formation of the corpus of the spermatophore began in the bursa copulatrix of the female moth, but full inflation of the corpus was not completed until 45-60 min after mating had started. The mature spermatophore contained about 350 eupyrene sperm bundles and a large number of individual (loose) apyrene spermatozoa. The mating status and the age of the male insect influenced the number of sperm transferred to the female within the spermatophore, and also affected the consequent fertility. There was no evidence of sperm reflux within the male tract. Within the female, dissociation of eupyrene sperm bundles was evident within the spermatophore less than 15 min after the completion of mating. Spermatozoa began to move from the bursa (in which the spermatophore is lodged) into the spermatheca 30-45 rain after the end of the copulation, and the quantity of sperm in the spermatheca reached a plateau at 90 min after mating. Apyrene sperm reached the spermatheca first, followed by eupyrene sperm. Examination of total (apyrene plus eupyrene) sperm in the female tract showed that 86% of mated females received an apparently normal amount of total sperm from the male. Examination of eupyrene sperm alone showed that 81% of matings resulted in an apparently normal transfer of eupyrene sperm. A small proportion (approximately 8%) of the matings, however, were identified as transferring a clearly subnormal quantity of eupyrene sperm to the spermatheca. The eggs produced as a result of such pairings displayed much reduced fertility (about 43%) compared to those from matings confirmed to have transferred normal quantities of sperm, which showed about 92% fertility. This shows that the availability of eupyrene sperm in the spermatheca may be an important constraint on fertility in normal populations of insects. In the laboratory, S. litura females exhibited multiple matings. Of the females, 93% mated, and the mean frequency of mating was 1.69. Mating with a fertile male led to the oviposition of an increased number of eggs. This effect continued even when the female subsequently mated with an infertile male. Displacement of sperm from previous matings is known to be an important factor in the evolution of multiple mating strategies. Our results on sperm utilization by S. litura indicated that after a second mating, the sperm utilized for subsequent fertilization were almost exclusively from the last mating, with little mixing. The proportion of eggs fertilized by sperm from the second mating (P-2) was calculated as 0.95, indicating almost complete sperm precedence from the last mating.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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