• Free amino acids as phagostimulants in cricket nuptial gifts: support for the 'Candymaker' hypothesis

      Warwick, Stuart; Vahed, Karim; Raubenheimer, David; Simpson, Stephen, J.; University of Oxford; University of Derby (The Royal Society, 2009-01-20)
      Nuptial gifts that are manufactured by the male are found in numerous insect species and some spiders, but there have been very few studies of the composition of such gifts. If, as has been proposed recently, nuptial gifts represent sensory traps, males will be selected to produce gifts that are attractive to females but such gifts will not necessarily provide the female with nutritional benefits (the 'Candymaker' hypothesis). We examined the free amino acid content of the spermatophylax of the cricket Gryllodes sigillatus (Orthoptera: Gryllidae) using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The spermatophylax (dry weight) consisted of approximately 7 per cent free amino acids. The free amino acid composition was highly imbalanced, with a low proportion of essential amino acids (18.7%) and a high proportion of proline and glycine. The main free amino acids found in the spermatophylax appeared to act as phagostimulants: the duration of feeding on artificial gels by females was positively related to the free amino acid content of the gels. The results therefore suggest that males use free amino acids to 'sweeten' a relatively low-value food item. A possible function of glycine in inhibiting female movement is also proposed.