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Sexually antagonistic coevolution can drive the evolution of male traits that harm females, and female resistance to those traits. While males have been found to vary their harmfulness to females in response to social cues, plasticity in female resistance traits remains to be examined. Here, we ask whether female seed beetles Callosobruchus maculatus are capable of adjusting their resistance to male harm in response to the social environment. Among seed beetles, male genital spines harm females during copulation and females might resist male harm via thickening of the reproductive tract walls. We develop a novel micro computed tomography imaging technique to quantify female reproductive tract thickness in three-dimensional space, and compared the reproductive tracts of females from populations that had evolved under high and low levels of sexual conflict, and for females reared under a social environment that predicted either high or low levels of sexual conflict. We find little evidence to suggest that females can adjust the thickness of their reproductive tracts in response to the social environment. Neither did evolutionary history affect reproductive tract thickness. Nevertheless, our novel methodology was capable of quantifying fine-scale differences in the internal reproductive tracts of individual females, and will allow future investigations into the internal organs of insects and other animals.
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 14 Jul 2021|
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