Male giant water bugs win females by babysitting

Sexual selection favors paternal care underwater

male giant water bug carrying eggs on its back

WHEN DAD BABYSITS  Those eggs on the back of a male giant water bug (Appasus japonicus shown) are so attractive to females that sexual selection may be a major force in maintaining dads-only care for young.

Dieno/Wikimedia Commons

There’s nothing like a guy doing all the child care to win female favor.

In thumbnail-sized Appasus water bugs, females lay eggs on a male’s back and leave him to swim around for weeks tending his glued-on load. For an A. major water bug, lab tests show an egg burden can have the sweet side effect of attracting more females, researchers in Japan report May 4 in Royal Society Open Science. Given a choice of two males, females strongly favored, and laid more eggs on, the male already hauling around 10 eggs rather than the male that researchers had scraped eggless.

Females still favored a well-egged male even when researchers offered two males that a female had already considered, but with their egg-carrying roles switched from the previous encounter. The formerly spurned suitor this time triumphed. “We conclude that sexual selection plays an important role in the maintenance of elaborate paternal care,” says study coauthor Shin-ya Ohba of Nagasaki University.

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