During mating, male bed bugs (Cimicidae) pierce the female abdomen to inject sperm using their needle-like genitalia. Females evolved specialized paragenital organs (the spermalege and associated structures) to receive traumatically injected ejaculates. In Leptocimex duplicatus, the spermalege is duplicated, but the evolutionary significance of this is unclear. In Cimex hemipterus and C. lectularius, in which females normally develop a single spermalege on the right side of the abdomen, similar duplication sometimes occurs. Using these aberrant morphs (D-females) of C. hemipterus, we tested the hypothesis that both of the duplicated spermaleges are functionally competent. Scars on female abdominal exoskeletons indicated frequent misdirected piercing by male genitalia. However, the piercing sites showed a highly biased distribution towards the right side of the female body. A mating experiment showed that when the normal insemination site (the right-side spermalege) was artificially covered, females remained unfertilized. This was true even when females also had a spermalege on the left side (D-females). This result was attributed to handedness in male mating behavior. Irrespective of the observed disuse of the left-side spermalege by males for insemination, histological examination failed to detect any differences between the right-side and left-side spermaleges. Moreover, an artificial insemination experiment confirmed that spermatozoa injected into the left-side spermalege show apparently normal migration behavior to the female reproductive organs, indicating an evolutionary potential for functionally-competent duplicated spermaleges. We discuss possible mechanisms for the evolutionary maintenance of D-females and propose a plausible route to the functionally-competent duplicated spermaleges observed in L. duplicatus.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)