Nuptial gifts are material donations given from male to female before or during copulation and are subject to sexual selection in a wide variety of taxa. The harvestman genus Leiobunum has emerged as a model system for understanding the evolution of reproductive morphology and behavior, as transitions between solicitous and antagonistic modes of courtship have occurred multiple times within the lineage and are correlated with convergence in genital morphology. We analyzed the free amino acid content of nuptial gift secretions from five species of Leiobunum using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Multivariate analysis of the free amino acid profiles revealed that, rather than clustering based on phylogenetic relationships, nuptial gift chemical composition was better predicted by genital morphology and behavior, suggesting that convergent evolution has acted on the chemical composition of the nuptial gift. In addition, we found that, species with solicitous courtship produce gifts consisting of a 19% larger proportion of essential amino acids as compared to those with more antagonistic courtship interactions. This work represents the first comparative study of nuptial gift chemistry within a phylogenetic framework in any animal group and as such contributes to our understanding of the evolution of reproductive diversity and the participant role of nuptial gift chemistry in mating system transitions.
Kahn, Penelope C.; Cao, Dennis D.; Burns, Mercedes; and Boyer, Sarah L., "Nuptial gift chemistry reveals convergent evolution correlated with antagonism in mating systems of harvestmen (Arachnida, Opiliones)" (2018). Faculty Publications. 3.
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