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Grand Teton National Park Report

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Sagebrush crickets (Cyphoderris strepitans) are primitive acoustic insects which occur only in mountainous areas of Wyoming and Colorado (Morris and Gwynne 1978). In Grand Teton National Park, adults become sexually active in early May and matings subsequently occur over a 3 - 6 week period. Each night of the breeding season, males emerge from the soil litter shortly after sunset, climb into the sagebrush and begin to sing, presumably to attract sexually receptive females. Copulation is initiated when a receptive female climbs onto the dorsum of a male, at which time he attempts to transfer a spermatophore (Dodson et al. 1983, Sakaluk et al. 1987, Morris et al. 1989). During the time that the female is mounted on the male, she feeds on the male's metathoracic wings and ingests any hemolymph oozing from the wounds she inflicts. To deter the female from dismounting before the spermatophore has been transferred, males are equipped with an abdominal pinching organ which functions to secure the female during copulation (Morris 1979, Dodson et al. 1983). Once the spermatophore has disengagement. The bulk of the spermatophore remains attached outside the female's body, who invariably consumes it several hours after mating (present study). A previous field study involving the mark-recapture of a large number of males showed that once a male had mated, his probability of obtaining additional copulations was significantly reduced (Morris et al. 1986). One explanation for this result is that non-virgin males, having lost a substantial portion of available energy reserves at mating, may be unable to sustain calling at pre-mating levels. In support of this hypothesis, electronic assays of male signaling behavior (see Kidder and Sakaluk, in press) have shown that virgin male C. strepitans call for significantly longer durations than recently mated males (Sakaluk et al.1987, Sakaluk and Snedden 1990). Although virgin males call more and have significantly higher mating success than non-virgins, this does not necessarily prove that calling duration and mating success are causally related. In the past, we have experienced two difficulties in establishing a causal basis to this correlation: 1) matings are rarely observed in the field, and we have of necessity relied on wing wounding as an indicator of male mating success (Morris et al. 1989) and 2) we have been unable to demonstrate phonotaxis of females to conspecific song as broadcast either through speakers placed in the field (Sakaluk and Snedden, unpubl. data) or in the laboratory (Morris et al. 1989). To at least partially circumvent these difficulties, we employed time-lapse video photography of mating interactions staged at the UW-NPS Research Station during the 1989 breeding season. The objective of these studies was to determine how mating status, calling time and body size contribute to male mating success, either through their effect on male competitive ability and/or their effect on male attractiveness to females.