The extent and costs of reproductive interference among four species of true bug
1. School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, UK
2. School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, UK
3. Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
4. School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, UK
Reproductive interference arises when individuals of one species engage in reproductive activities with individuals of another, leading to fitness costs in one or both species. Reproductive interference (RI) therefore has two components. First, there must be mis-directed mating interactions. Second, there must be costs associated with these mis-directed interactions. Here we consider RI between four species of true bug in the family Lygaeidae, focusing in particular on the fitness consequences to Lygaeus equestris. The species we consider vary in their relationships with each other, including species in the same or different genus, and with or without natural overlap in their geographic ranges. First we show that inter-specific mating interactions, although not a certain outcome, are common enough to perhaps influence mating behaviour in these species (arising in up to 10 % of inter-specific pairings). Second, we show that reproductive interference can seriously reduce female fitness in L. equestris. Importantly, different species impose different costs of RI on L. equestris, with interactions with male Spilostethus pandurus inflicting fitness costs of similar magnitude to the costs of mating with con-specifics. On the other hand, mating interactions with male Oncopeltus fasciatus appear to have no effect on female fitness. In a follow-up experiment, when we allowed competition amongst just females of S. pandurus and L. equestris, the fitness of the latter was not reduced, arguing more strongly for the role of reproductive interference. However, in our final experiments under mass mating conditions with extended ecological interactions (including scope for competition for resources and cannibalism), the costs of RI were less apparent. Our data therefore suggest that the costs of RI will be context-specific and may act in concert with, or be swamped by, other ecological effects. We suggest that comparative studies of this sort that both mimic naturally occurring reproductive interference events, and also artificially generate new ones, will be necessary if we are to better understand the ecological and evolutionary significance of reproductive interference.