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Males are more beneficial than previously assumed

Zoologists from the University of Tübingen have published new findings on the sexual behaviour of threadworms in the renowned journal “Frontiers in Zoology“.

"Plugged" female © Timmermeyer, Schulte, University of Tübingen

Male threadworms place mating plugs on the female genital tract after copulation. Mating plugs consist of a gelatine-like substance that hardens like glue. A group of scientists from the University of Tübingen, including Nadine Timmermeyer, have been able to show that this mating plug is a kind of "gift" rather than a physical barrier to prevent remating with other males. The scientists found that plugged females mated as frequently and are as attractive as unplugged females, and that the plugs also increased female fitness. The Tübingen group of researchers has now reported their findings in the current edition of Frontiers in Zoology, an open access journal published by BioMed Central.

Nadine Timmermeyer and her team have investigated the effects of mating plugs in the threadworm Caenorhabditis remanei. She summarises their research as follows: "Our results suggest that plugging does not affect the probability of a female being approached by a male, nor the probability of subsequent mating. In fact, our study found that plugging had a positive effect on egg production, suggesting that plugs may represent a beneficial act of a male towards its female partner rather than a competitive act between males. The plug acts like a seal, keeping sperm inside the female and protecting it against harmful pathogens. The plug may also contain substances that stimulate the female, transfer nutrients or have antimicrobial characteristics." Mating plugs have been documented for a broad range of animal phyla, including insects, arachnids, reptiles and rodents.

Further information:

Nadine Timmermeyer
University of Tübingen
Evolutionary Ecology of Animals
Auf der Morgenstelle 28
72076 Tuebingen
Tel.: +49 7071 29-74603
Fax: +49 7071 29-5634
E-mail: nadine.timmermeyer[at]uni-tuebingen.de

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/males-are-more-beneficial-than-previously-assumed