Sexual conflict over mating in red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) as indicated by experimental manipulation of genitalia Public Deposited

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  • Sexual conflict over mating can result in sex specific morphologies and behaviors that allow each sex to exert control over the outcome of reproduction. Genital traits, in particular, are often directly involved in conflict interactions. Via genital manipulation, we experimentally investigated whether genital traits in red-sided garter snakes influence copulation duration and formation of a copulatory plug. The hemipenes of male red-sided garter snakes have a large basal spine that inserts into the female cloaca during mating. We ablated the spine and found that males were still capable of copulation but copulation duration was much shorter and copulatory plugs were smaller than those produced by intact males. We also anesthetized the female cloacal region and found that anesthetized females copulated longer than control females, suggesting that female cloacal and vaginal contractions play a role in controlling copulation duration. Both results, combined with known aspects of the breeding biology of red-sided garter snakes, strongly support the idea that sexual conflict is involved in mating interactions in this species. Our results demonstrate the complex interactions among male and female traits generated by coevolutionary processes in a wild population. Such complexity highlights the importance of simultaneous examination of male and female traits.
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  • Friesen, C. R., Uhrig, E. J., Squire, M. K., Mason, R. T., & Brennan, P. L. (2014). Sexual conflict over mating in red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) as indicated by experimental manipulation of genitalia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1774), 20132694. doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.2694
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