Lekking in Gryllotalpa major, the Prairie Mole Cricket a Test of the Hotshot Hypothesis

BRANTLEY, S.*; HILL, P.S.M.: Lekking in Gryllotalpa major, the Prairie Mole Cricket: a Test of the “Hotshot Hypothesis”.

Gryllotalpa major is a rare, burrowing insect indigenous to the tallgrass prairie of the south-central United States that is known to lek during mating. This study looked at possible reasons for the lekking behavior in this species. The “hotshot hypothesis” states that males congregate around a male that has certain traits that make him more preferred by females during mate selection. In aggregating around the favored male, other males increase their own chances of mating. During the mating season, prairie mole cricket males build specialized burrows from which they project their mating call into the air. Females flying in the area hear the mating calls and drop to ground level, entering the burrows of males of their choice. Since a male’s call is the only thing a female can use in selecting a mate, different aspects of the male’s mating song were analyzed in order to pinpoint a preferred trait. One trait that attracted other males to congregate around a “hotshot” male was the amplitude of a male’s call. It was observed that males with the loudest call on a particular night would entice other males to their positions to construct their own burrows the following night or the next night that calling occurred. These data support the “hotshot hypothesis” as the reason for lekking in Gryllotalpa major.

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