Sexual Role-Reversals

From Seed

Even more bizarre than the slippersnail is the sexual behavior of bedbugs, described in an entertaining post by “Cheshire,” an entomology undergraduate at Iowa State University.Male bedbugs don’t impregnate females via the reproductive tract, which is only used for depositing eggs. Instead the, process is terrifying: Males use their genitalia to pierce females directly through the chest. In fact, males will often attempt to mate with other males, although these attempts are usually aborted quite quickly. So how do bedbugs select mates, and what determines whether they finish the job or stop short? Camilla Ryne believed it might have to do with the alarm pheromones bedbugs use to alert each other to danger. She disabled the pheromone glands in some males and then introduced other males to their enclosure. The new males mated just as if they were females. Then she tried stimulating females to release the alarm pheromones while males were mating with them. The males backed off nearly as quickly as they did with untreated males! Without the alarm pheromone, bedbugs simply can’t identify the sex of their potential mates, and basically will mate with any bedbug that looks to be well-fed. Ryne’s work was published in Animal Behavior.

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