Rapid evolution of mating behavior

Our understanding of how fast mating behaviour evolves in insects is rather poor due to a lack of comparative studies among insect groups for which phylogenetic relationships are known.

We conducted a detailed study of the mating behaviour of 27 species of Sepsidae (Diptera) for which a well-resolved and supported phylogeny is available, and showed that mating behaviour is extremely diverse in sepsids with each species having its own mating profile. In addition, we defined 32 behavioural characters and document them with video clips, all of which are readily available on youtube.

Based on sister species comparisons, we documented several examples where mating behaviour evolves faster than all sexually dimorphic morphological traits. Mapping the behaviours onto the molecular tree revealed much homoplasy, comparable to that observed for third positions of mitochondrial protein-encoding genes. A partitioned Bremer support (PBS) analysis reveals conflict between the molecular and behavioural data, but behavioural characters have higher PBS values per parsimony-informative character than DNA sequence characters.

For details, see Puniamoorthy et al. 2009 JEB