So-called nuptial gifts – often consisting of food or tokens – are typically bestowed by males on females as part of courtship and copulation rituals in many species. By manipulating the nuptial gifts that female insects receive during copulation, researchers have now shown that female preferences can be exploited by males who are "cheating" on their reproductive investment by presenting easily obtainable token gifts.
Gift-giving during courtship and copulation occurs across the animal kingdom, including in humans. Nuptial gifts can range from valuable nutritious food items to inedible tokens such as leaves or silk balloons. Gift-giving is of clear benefit to females when gifts are nutritious and thus valuable, but why females of some species require an inedible and worthless gift remains unexplained. In experiments reported this week, researchers Natasha LeBas and Leon Hockham from the University of St. Andrews removed the valuable (i.e., edible) nuptial gift that male empidid dance flies normally provide their female partner and replaced the gift with either a large edible gift or an inedible cotton ball token that resembles tokens given by other empidid fly species. The researchers found that although pairs copulated longest after presentation of a large edible gift, the females receiving the worthless cotton ball token were sufficiently tricked to allow males to copulate for as long as when the males provided a small nutritious gift. Males who substitute highly visible, but easily obtainable and worthless gifts may thus be able to invade a population of genuine gift-giving males.
The research demonstrates that, at least in some cases, females are susceptible to the invasion of so-called male cheating behaviour, and it suggests that the evolution of worthless gift-giving may arise though males sensory exploitation of female preferences for nutritious gifts.
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A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.
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Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
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A hot, molten Earth would be around 5% larger than its solid counterpart. This is the result of a study led by researchers at the University of Bern. The difference between molten and solid rocky planets is important for the search of Earth-like worlds beyond our Solar System and the understanding of Earth itself.
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Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Princeton University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have spotted a famously elusive particle: The axion – first predicted 42 years ago as an elementary particle in extensions of the standard model of particle physics.
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