Damage limitation

Female bedbugs don't take traumatic insemination lying down

Stuart Blackman(stuart.blackman@talk21.com)
Sep 30, 2003

Where there are conflicts of interests there often are evolutionary arms races, an escalation of adaptation. Though well documented between predators and prey (and hostile world powers), arms races have proved difficult to pin down when it comes to another area of life, which theory tells us should be rife with conflicts of interests. But, according to two papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, just such a conflict of sexual interests has driven an arms race between male and female bedbugs that has led to the evolution of a unique organ.

The respective interests of prospective mates can conflict with many aspects of reproduction—whether to mate at all, for example, or how many offspring to have. "When the conflict is overt and behavioral, it's much easier to pick up on—like the kind of interaction between predator and prey," said evolutionary biologist Rufus Johnstone of...