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The Influence of Multiple Mating On the Reproduction and Genetics of Heterodera Rostochiensis and H. Schachtii

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Females of Heterodera rostochiensis Woll. embedded in agar or peat were inseminated more readily than in sand. Females removed from their host plants with small pieces of root attached lived longer and produced more eggs than those taken from roots. The behaviour of males in the presence of females was observed, or was deduced from tracks left on an agar surface or from their behaviour towards attractant substances secreted by the females and absorbed in agar discs. Males of H. rostochiensis attracted each other slightly but were much more strongly attracted to females. When females were in groups, males at a distance responded to the group as a whole, rather than to individuals, but when near to the group they tended to be 'captured' by a single female near the edge of the group. To estimate the proportions of ineffective males and sterile females in matings and the influence of multiple matings on fecundity, females were mated with different numbers of males. Males of H. rostochiensis and H. schachtii Schm. seemed able to inseminate up to ten females. Fecundity depended more on the age of the females when taken from the roots than the number of males that inseminated them. When several males collected around a single female they obstructed each other in attempts to copulate, but several must have succeeded in inseminating the female, counteracting the loss of fecundity caused by sterile or impotent males of which there were many. The genetic effects of multiple matings on inheritance were explored theoretically, using as an example the ability of some larvae of H. rostochiensis to become females in the roots of eelworm resistant potatoes bred from Solanum tuberosum ssp. andigena. Kort's data from single cyst cultures seemed to fit the theory that this ability depended on a recessive gene occurring infrequently. It seems that neither the first nor the last mating was the only effective one and multiple mating would cause a greater diversity of genes in the offspring of one female. Promiscuity and the ability of males to mate several females successfully, are advantageous in species such as H. rostochiensis and H. schachtii, in which the sex ratio ranges greatly and males may be outnumbered nine to one in sparse populations. Because eggs are concentrated in cysts, the progeny from cysts tend to invade roots in groups and clusters of females result. Grouping enhances their attractiveness to males. The males leave the females they have recently mated, move away and so have the opportunity of fertilising others.

Affiliations: 1: Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Herts., England


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