Sexual selection is a form of natural selection in which individuals are competing not for food or other resources in the environment, but for mates. It is the process by which certain individuals with specific heritable traits produce more offspring than other organisms of the same species and sex. Sexual selection leads to distinct differences in the appearance of the two sexes within a species, and can occur via mate competition (instraspecific) or mate choice (interspecific), and either before (precopulatory) or during/after (postcopulatory) the mating event.

Multiple male mantids mounted on an attractive female

Multiple male mantids mounted on an attractive female

The IMS lab is interested in all aspects of sexual selection, from precopulatory mate choice and competition to sperm competition and cryptic male and female choice. We are keen to explore the interplay between sexual cannibalism and scramble competition in praying mantid mating systems, where males must constantly make decisions about the latency of their approach and how it will affect their reproductive success. Sperm competition and cryptic male choice are investigated using various methods (e.g. fluorescence microscopy, sterile insect technique), where we attempt to determine the cues males use for strategic ejaculation. We are particularly interested in how sexual cannibalism affects strategic ejaculation and whether the noticeable decrease in female receptivity after mating is male-driven (i.e. caused by an ejaculate protein).