Sexual Selection in Insects


  • Geetanjali Mishra Ladybird Research Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of Lucknow, Lucknow 226007, Uttar Pradesh



Intrasexual Selection, Intersexual Selection, Sperm Competition, Cryptic Female Choice, Direct And Indirect Fitness, Sperm Precedence


Sexual selection is an evolutionary process, that increases the direct and indirect fitness of an organism by non random preference of mates, based on their differential ability. Sexual selection may be in the form of intrasexual selection and intersexual selection. The former involves competition between the males (usually), while females are passive acceptors of winners as mates. The latter involves display of abilities by the males (usually), while the female inspects and assesses them prior to selection of mate. Traditionally both these mechanisms are believed to take place prior to copulation. However, studies indicate that these also take place, post copulation. The post copulatory displays of sexual selection involve sperm competition and cryptic female choice. Not only are all these displays fascinating, understanding their evolution and their ecological modulations make this field an interesting one. This review deals with these aspects of sexual selection in insects, as they encase some of the most diverse mechanisms of sexual selection.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...




How to Cite

Mishra, G. . (2023). Sexual Selection in Insects. Indian Journal of Entomology, 84(Special Issue (December), 77–85.



Invited Review Articles


Alcock J. 2001. Animal Behaviour. Sinauer, Sunderland, MA. 543 pp.

Andersson M, Simmons L W. 2006. Sexual selection and mate choice. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 21: 296-302.

Anjos-Duarte C S, Costa A M Joachim-Bravo I S. 2011. Sexual behaviour of the Mediterranean fruit fly (Diptera: Tephritidae): the influence of female size on mate choice. Journal of Applied Entomology 135: 367-373.

Aquiloni L, Gherardi F. 2008. Mutual mate choice in crayfish: large body size is selected by both sexes, virginity by males only. Journal of Zoology 274(2): 171-179.

Arakaki N, Sadoyama Y, Kishita M, Nagayama A, et al. 2004. Mating behaviour of the scarab beetle Dasylepida ishigakiensis (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Applied Entomology and Zoology 39(4): 669-674.

Arnaud L, Haubruge E. 1999. Mating behaviour and male mate choice in Tribolium castaneum (Coleopteran: Tenebrionidae). Behaviour 136(1): 67-77.

Arnqvist G, Danielsson I. 1999. Copulatory behaviour, genital morphology, and male fertilization success in water striders. Evolution 53(1): 147-156.

Atwell A, Wagner W E. 2014. Female mate choice plasticity is affected by the interaction between male density and female age in a field cricket. Animal Behaviour 98: 77-83.

Avent T D, Price T A R, Wedell N. 2008. Age-based female preference in the fruit fly Drosophila pseudoobscura. Animal Behaviour, 75: 1413-1421.

Avila F W, Sirot L K, LaFlamme B A, Rubinstein C D, Wolfner M F. 2011. Insect seminal fluid proteins: Identification and function. Annual Review of Entomology 56: 21-40.

Bissoondath C J, Wiklund C. 1996 Effect of male mating history and body size on ejaculate size and quality in two polyanderous butterflies, Pieris napi and Pieris rapae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). Functional Ecology 10: 457- 464.

Bissoondath C J, Wiklund C. 1996. Effect of male mating history and body size on ejaculate size and quality in two polyandrous butterflies, Pieris napi and Pieris rapae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). Functional Ecology 10(4): 457-464.

Bista M. 2015. Age dependent mate choice influences reproductive and progeny attributes in aphidophagous ladybird beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). European Journal of Entomology 112: 648-657.

Blanckenhorn W U. 1998. Adaptive phenotypic plasticity in growth, development, and body size in the yellow dung fly. Evolution 52: 1394-1407.

Blanckenhorn W U. 2000. The evolution of body size: What keeps organisms small? The Quarterly Review of Biology 75: 385-407.

Bonduriansky R A, Brassil C E. 2002. Rapid and costly ageing in wild male flies. Nature, 420: 377.

Brown W D. 1990a. Constraints on size-assortative mating in the blister beetle (Tegrodera aloga) (Coleoptera: Meloidae). Ethology 86: 146-160.

Brown W D. 1990b. Size-assortative mating in the blister beetle (Lytta magister) (Coleoptera: Meloidae) is due to male and female preference for larger mates. Animal Behaviour 40: 901-909.

Calabrese J M, Ries L, Matter S F, Debinski DM, et al. 2008. Reproductive asynchrony in natural butterfly populations and its consequences for female matelessness. Journal of Animal Ecology 77(4): 746-756.

Carazo P, Fernández-Perea R, Font E. 2012. Quantity estimation based on numerical cues in the mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor). Frontiers in Psychology 3: 502.

Chaudhary D D, Mishra G. 2017. Strategic mate‐guarding behaviour in ladybirds. Ethology 123(5): 376-385.

Cook P A, Wedell N. 1996. Ejaculate dynamics in butterflies: a strategy for maximizing fertilization success? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 263(1373): 1047-1051.

Coyne J A, Orr H A. 2004. Speciation. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates.

Crespi B J. 1988. Risks and benefits of lethal male fighting in the colonial, polygynous thrips Hoplothrips karnyi(Insecta: Thysanoptera). Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 22: 293-301.

Darwin C. 1871. The descent of man and selection in relation to sex (1st ed.). London: John Murray.

Del Castillo R C. 2003. Body size and multiple copulations in a neotropical grasshopper with an extraordinary mate-guarding duration. Journal of Insect Behaviour 16(4): 503-522.

Dixon A F G. 2007. Body size and resource partitioning in ladybirds. Population Ecology 49: 45-50.

Dubey A, Omkar, Mishra G. 2016a. Adult body size drives sexual selection mutually in the ladybird, Menochilus sexmaculatus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Acta Entomologica Sinica 59(2): 209-218.

Dubey A, Omkar, Mishra G. 2016b. Influence of temperature on reproductive biology and phenotype of a ladybird, Menochilus sexmaculatus (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Journal of Thermal Biology 58: 35-42.

Eberhard W G. 2009 Postcopulatory sexual selection: Darwin's omission and its consequences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (Supplement 1): 10025-10032.

Emlen S T, Oring LW. 1977. Ecology, sexual selection, and the evolution of mating systems. Science 197: 215-223.

Engqvist L, Reinhold K. 2005. Pitfalls in experiments testing predictions from sperm competition theory. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 18(1): 116-123.

Estrada C, Gilbert L E. 2010. Host plants and immatures as mate-searching cues in Heliconius butterflies. Animal Behaviour 80(2): 231-239.

Filin I, Ovadia O. 2007. Individual size variation and population stability in a seasonal environment: a discrete- time model and its calibration using grasshoppers. American Naturalist 170: 719-733.

Fricke C, Wigby S, Hobbs R, Chapman T. 2009. The benefits of male ejaculate sex peptide transfer in Drosophila melanogaster. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 22(2): 275-286.

Gage M J G, Cook P A. 1994. Sperm size or numbers? Effects of nutritional stress upon eupyrene and apyrene sperm production strategies in the moth Plodia interpunctella(Lepidoptera: Pyralidea). Functional Ecology 8: 594-599.

Gotthard K, Nylin S, Wiklund C. 1994. Adaptive variation in growth rate: life history costs and consequences in the speckled wood butterfly, Parargea egeria. Oecologia 9: 281-289.

Grant B R, Grant PR. 1989. Evolutionary Dynamics of a Natural Population: The Large Cactus Finch of the Galápagos. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.Hansen T F, Price D K. 1995. Good genes and old age: do old mates provide superior genes? Journal of Evolutionary Biology 8: 769-778.

Hasselquist D, Besch S, von Schantz T. 1996. Correlation between male song repertoire, extrapair paternity and offspring survival in the great reed warbler. Nature 381: 229-232.

Hercus M J, Hoffmann A A. 2000. Maternal and grandmaternal age influence offspring fitness in Drosophila. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 267: 2105-2110.

Hughes L, Chang B S W, Wagner D, Pierce N E. 2000. Effects of mating history on ejaculate size, fecundity, longevity, and copulation duration in the ant-tended lycaenid butterfly, Jalmenus evagoras. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 47(3): 119-128.

Johansson F, Söderquist M, Bokma F. 2009. Insect wing shape evolution: independent effects of migratory and mate guarding flight on dragonfly wings. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 97(2): 362-372.

Jones T M, Elgar M A. 2004. The role of male age, sperm age and mating history on fecundity and fertilization success in the hide beetle. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 271: 1311-1318.

Jones T M, Balmford A, Quinnell R J. 2000. Adaptive female choice for middle-aged mates in a lekking sandfly. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 267: 681-686.

Kelly C D, Jennions M D. 2011. Sexual selection and sperm quantity: meta‐analyses of strategic ejaculation. Biological Reviews 86(4): 863-884.

Kokko H, Lindstrom J. 1996. Evolution of female preference for old mates. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 263: 1533-1538.

Kureck I M, Neumann A, Foitzik S. 2011. Wingless ant males adjust mate-guarding behaviour to the competitive situation in the nest. Animal behaviour 82(2): 339-346.

Lehtonen J, Parker G A, Scharer L. 2016. Why anisogamy drives ancestral sex roles? Evolution 70: 1129-1135.

Lum P T M, Flaherty B R. 1970. Effect of continuous light on the potency of Plodia interpunctella males (Lepidoptera: Phycitidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 63(5): 1470-1471.

Majerus M E N. 1998. Melanism: Evolution in Action, Oxford University Press Oxford. 338 pp.

Manier M K, Belote J M, Berben K S, Novikov D, et al. 2010.

Resolving mechanisms of competitive fertilization success in Drosophila melanogaster. Science 328(5976): 354-357.

Markow T A, Quaid M, Kerr S. 1978. Male mating experience and competitive courtship success in Drosophila melanogaster. Nature 276: 821-822.

Michie L J, Mallard F, Majerus M E N, Jiggins F M. 2010. Melanic through nature or nurture: genetic polymorphism and phenotypic plasticity in Harmonia axyridis. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23: 1699-1707.

Michie L J, Masson A, Ware R L, Jiggins F M. 2011. Seasonal phenotypic plasticity: wild ladybirds are darker at cold temperatures. Evolutionary Ecology 25: 1259-1268.

Moore A J. 1990. The evolution of sexual dimorphism by sexual selection: the separate effects of intrasexual selection and intersexual selection. Evolution 44: 315-331.

Nakatsuru K, Kramer D L. 1982. Is sperm cheap? Limited male fertility and female choice in the Lemon Tetra (Pisces, Characidae). Science 216: 753-754.

Omkar, Afaq U. 2013. Evaluation of Darwin's fecundity advantage hypothesis in Parthenium beetle, Zygogramma bicolorata. Insect Science 20: 531-540.

Parker G A. 1990a. Sperm competition games: sneaks and extra-pair copulations. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 242(1304): 127-133.

Parker G A. 1990b. Sperm competition games: raffles and roles. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 242(1304): 120-126.

Parker G A, Ball M A, Stockley P, Gage M J G. 1997. Sperm competition games: a prospective analysis of risk assessment. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences264(1389): 1793-1802.

Pech-May F G, Medina-Medina L, May-Itzaa W, de Paxton R J, Quezada-Euán J J G. 2012. Colony pollen reserves affect body size, sperm production and sexual development in males of the stingless bee Melipona beecheii. Insectes Sociaux 59: 417-424.

Perez-Staples D, Martinez-Hernandez MG, Aluja, M. 2010. Male age and experience increases mating success but not female fitness in the Mexican fruit fly. Ethology 116: 778-786.

Pischedda A, Rice W R. 2012. Partitioning sexual selection into its mating success and fertilization success components. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 2049-2053.

Pizzari T, Parker G A. 2009. Sperm competition and sperm phenotype. Sperm Biology. Academic Press, London 207-245 pp.

Polak M. 1998. Effects of ectoparasitism on host condition in the Drosophila-Macrocheles system. Ecology 79(5): 1807-1817.

Price D K, Hansen T F. 1998. How does offspring quality change with age in male Drosophila melanogaster? Behavior Genetics 28: 395-402.

Prowse N, Partridge L. 1997. The effects of reproduction on longevity and fertility in male Drosophila melanogaster. Journal of Insect Physiology 43(6): 501-512.

Saeki Y, Kruse K C, Switzer P V.2005. The social environment affects mate guarding behaviour in Japanese beetles, Popillia japonica. Journal of Insect Science 5(1): 18.

Safranek L, Riddiford L M. 1975. The biology of the black larval mutant of the tobacco hornworm. Manduca sexta. Journal of Insect Physiology 21: 1931-1938.

Salavert V, Zamora-Munoz C, Ruizrodriguez M, Soler J J. 2011. Female-biased size dimorphism in a diapausing caddisfly, Mesophylax aspersus: effect of fecundity and natural and sexual selection. Ecological Entomology 36: 389-395.

Saxena S, Mishra G, Omkar. 2022. Postcopulatory Sexual Selection. Reproductive Strategies in Insects. CRC Press 161-182 pp.

Simmons L W. 2001. Sperm competition and its evolutionary consequences in the insects (Vol. 68). Princeton University Press.

Singh B N, Chatterjee S. 1987. Greater mating success of Drosophila biarmipes males possessing an apical dark black wing patch. Ethology 75: 81-83.

Smith P H, Gillott C, Browne L B, Gerwen AV. 1990. The mating‐induced refractoriness of Lucilia cuprina females: manipulating the male contribution. Physiological Entomology 15(4): 469-481.

Sundberg J A, Dixon A. 1996. Old, colourful male yellow hammers, Emberiza citrinella, benefit from extra-pair copulations. Animal Behaviour 52(1): 113-22.

Trivers R L. 1972. Parental investment and sexual selection. Campbell B (ed.). Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871-1971. Aldine-Atherton, Chicago 136-179 pp.

Wallace B. 1987. Ritualistic combat and allometry. American Naturalist 129: 775-776.

Wang S, Michaud JP, Zhang RZ, Zhang F, Liu S. 2009. Seasonal cycles of assortative mating and reproductive behaviour in polymorphic populations of Harmonia axyridis in China. Ecological Entomology 34: 483-494.

Wheeler J, Gwynne D T, Bussier L F. 2012. Stabilizing sexual selection for female ornaments in a dance fly. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25 (7): 1233-1242.

Wiklund C, Kaitala A. 1995. Sexual selection for large male size in a polyandrous butterfly: the effect of body size on male versus female reproductive success in Pieris napi. Behavioral Ecology 6(1): 6-13.

Wiley R H. 1974. Evolution of social organization and life history patterns among grouse. Quarterly Reviews of Biology 49: 201-227.

Woodhead A P.1984. Effect of duration of larval development on sexual competence in young adult male Diploptera punctata. Physiological Entomology 9(4): 473-477.

Xu J, Wang Q. 2009. Male moths undertake both pre- and in copulation mate choice based on female age and weight. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 63: 801-808.

Xu J, Wang Q. 2010. Mechanisms of last male precedence in a moth: sperm displacement at ejaculation and storage sites. Behavioural Ecology 21(4): 714-721.

Zhu D H, Tanaka S. 2002. Prolonged precopulatory mounting increases the length of copulation and sperm precedence in Locusta migratoria (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 95(3): 370-373.

Zuk M. 1987. The effects of gregarine parasites on longevity, weight loss, fecundity and developmental time in the field crickets Gryllus veletis and G. pennsylvanicus. Ecological Entomology 12(3): 349-354.

Zuk M, Kolluru G R. 1998. Exploitation of sexual signals by predators and parasitoids. Quarterly Reviews of Biology 73: 415-438.