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Sex ratio in relation to season and host plant quality in a monogenous stem-galling midge (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae)

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1. The sex determination mechanism in gall midges is little understood, although it is known that the females of several species primarily or exclusively produce unisexual broods throughout their lifetime.

2. The gall midge Izeniola obesula Dorchin is a multivoltine species, inducing multi-chambered stem galls on the salt-marsh plant Suaeda monoica. Each gall contains 5–70 individuals, all being the progeny of a single female. Sampling of more than 450 galls, from which adult midges were reared, suggested that I. obesula exhibits strict monogeny, resulting in galls that contain either all female or all male progeny.

3. Characterisation of the growth pattern of young S. monoica shoots revealed that shoots in apical positions grew more rapidly than shoots in more basal positions. Galls that were induced on such shoots were larger and yielded more adult midges.

4. No difference in the site of gall induction was found between male and female galls, with galls of either sex being mainly induced on more rapidly growing shoots. It is concluded that I. obesula females cannot control the sex of their progeny, and that both female-producers and male-producers strive to maximise their reproductive success by choosing the faster-growing shoots for gall induction.

5. Female galls were larger and more abundant than male galls at almost all times. The sex ratio among galls fluctuated throughout the year, ranging from 4:1 in spring to 1:1 in winter. The skewed sex ratio among galls possibly results from greater mortality rates among male galls than among female galls, due to either primary or secondary factors. Alternatively, it is possible that the number or fitness of male-producers in the population is reduced relative to female-producers.
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Keywords: Fitness; gall midges; monogeny; plant vigour; population ecology; seasonality; sex ratio

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Zoology, The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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