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Courtship Behaviour of Some Muscidifurax Species (Hym.,Pteromalidae): a Possible Example of a Recently Evolved Ethological Isolating Mechanism

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

A complex of closely related Muscidifurax species (Hym., Pteromalidae) exists in the Americas as parasites of house fly (Musca domestica L.) puparia. One of the species, M. raptor, is widely distributed in the Old and in the New World; the others are endemic to much more restricted areas. The house fly and its parasite M. raptor are considered to be (probably very recent) immigrants in the New World. According to LEGNER (in litt.) Muscidifurax can almost certainly be considered invaded after the advent of European man; the present American species may be products of a rapid evolution. Courtship behaviour of the Muscidifurax species is described; the different behaviour patterns can very profitably be used for species diagnosis (in fact, perhaps as reliably, or even more so, as morphological characters, and certainly more easily). Courtship behaviour appears to act as an ethological isolating mechanism between sympatric Muscidifurax species. Courtship was studied in experiments in which we presented a male with a female (either virgin or recently inseminated, conspecific or non-conspecific) or with female models. Several aspects of the courtship procedure of the American Muscidifurax species can be understood as probable derivations from the more simple conditions present in the widespread, and presumably original, species M. raptor. We were unable to find any difference in the motor patterns of courtship behaviour of an European and an American strain of M. raptor. However, the European males preferred to court American model females when tested in a choice situation; the American males did not show a preference. The experimental results are discussed in connection with LEGNER'S immigrant hypothesis.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Zoology, University of Leiden, The Netherlands


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