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Waiting for Mates: Variation in Female Encounter Rates Within and Between Leks of Drosophila Conformis

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Previous work on Drosphila conformis revealed that males were aggregated at trees of Pisonia umbellifera, where they defended individual leaves at mating territories. Leaves of this tree species are distributed in distinct clusters at the ends of branches, and males tended to occupy and females visit the lowest leaves within a given cluster. Larger males were found to dominate smaller ones with the result that larger individuals generally occupied the lowest territories within a cluster. Here, data collected over a 2-year period are used to investigace settlement patterns of D. conformis on two larger spatial scales: between clusters in the same lek and between different leks. Within a single lek, both sexes (but particularly females) appeared to settle preferentially in the larger clusters, and as a result female encounter rates were usually greatest for males that occupied low leaves in large clusters. Moreover, because of this female preference, relatively small (and presumably subordinate) males that held high leaves in large clusters encountered females more frequently than larger males that defended low leaves in small clusters. Among the three leks observed, ratios of males/territory varied only slightly, whereas female arrival rates/territory differed substantially and were greatest for the largest lek. Consequently, the average female encounter rates for males in the largest lek were 1.4-2.4 times greater than those recorded for males in the smaller aggregations.

Affiliations: 1: Hawaiian Evolutionary Biology Program, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822 U.S.A.

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