Since the mating of the parasitoid wasp Melittobia australica occurs on their eclosed hosts, the sex ratio is predicted to follow the local mate competition (LMC) theory. However, while LMC models predict that the sex ratio will increase from female-biased toward a 1:1 ratio with an increase in the number of foundresses, the observed female-biased sex ratios (1-5% males) show little increase in response to an increased foundress number. Lethal combat among adult males may serve as an explanation for this observed phenomenon. Using a microsatellite DNA marker, we first examined the individual sex ratio of two foundresses who had sequentially parasitized the same host. Both foundresses produced an extremely female-biased clutch and the sex ratios of the second foundress were only slightly less biased than that of the first. A small number of sons from both foundresses emerged at a constantly low rate over a prolonged period, resulting in a temporal mixture of emerging males derived from both the foundresses. Second, we conducted a one-on-one arena experiment to examine the combat level in relation to the relatedness of the opponents. Almost all the later-emerging males were killed by previously eclosed males irrespective of whether they were sibs or non-sibs. These results suggest that each foundress should not produce males in a single burst, but continue to produce male eggs at a constantly low rate in order to avoid the high mortality of her own sons by lethal male-male combat. This combat may be one of factors in explaining the extremely female-biased sex ratio even with an increasing foundress number.
ASJC Scopus subject areas