An invasion of Cheats: The evolution of worthless nuptial gifts

Natasha Lebas, L.R. Hockham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Nuptial gifts are food items or inedible tokens that are transferred to females during courtship or copulation [1-3]. Tokens are of no direct value to females, and it is unknown why females require such worthless gifts as a precondition of mating. One hypothesis is that token giving arose in species that gave nutritious gifts and males exploited female preferences for nutritional gifts by substituting more easily obtainable but worthless items [4]. An invasion of such behavior would require that females accept the substitute gift and copulate for a period of time similar to that with genuine gifts. We show that both these prerequisites are met in the dance fly Rhamphomyia sulcata, in which females normally accept a nutritious gift. We removed the gift from copulating pairs and replaced it with either a large or small prey item or inedible token. We found that although pairs copulated longest with a large genuine gift, the tokens resulted in copula durations equivalent to those with a small genuine gift. We also observed that males that returned to the lek with tokens re-paired successfully. These findings suggest that female behavior in genuine gift-giving species is susceptible to the invasion of male cheating on reproductive investment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-67
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'An invasion of Cheats: The evolution of worthless nuptial gifts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this