Sigma virus and male reproductive success in Drosophila melanogaster

Clare C. Rittschof, Swetapadma Pattanaik, Laura Johnson, Luis F. Matos, Jérémie Brusini, Marta L. Wayne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The risk of disease transmission can affect female mating rate, and thus sexual conflict. Furthermore, the interests of a sexually transmitted organism may align or diverge with those of either sex, potentially making the disease agent a third participant in the sexual arms race. In Drosophila melanogaster, where sexual conflict over female mating rate is well established, we investigated how a common, non-lethal virus (sigma virus) might affect this conflict. We gave uninfected females the opportunity to copulate twice in no-choice trials: either with two uninfected males, or with one male infected with sigma virus followed by an uninfected male. We assessed whether females respond behaviorally to male infection, determined whether male infection affects either female or male reproductive success, and measured offspring infection rates. Male infection status did not influence time to copulation, or time to re-mating. However, male infection did affect male reproductive success: first males sired a significantly greater proportion of offspring, as well as more total offspring, when they were infected with sigma virus. Thus viral infection may provide males an advantage in sperm competition, or, possibly, females may preferentially use infected sperm. We found no clear costs of infection in terms of offspring survival. Viral reproductive success (the number of infected offspring) was strongly correlated with male reproductive success. Further studies are needed to demonstrate whether virus-induced changes in reproductive success affect male and female lifetime fitness, and whether virus-induced changes are under male, female, or viral control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-540
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We thank Sebastian Vasquez and Lyvie-Sara Sylvestre for help keeping the flies and setting up experiments, and H. Jane Brockmann and L. Sirot for helpful discussions. This work was funded by National Institutes of Health grant GM083192.


  • Co-evolution
  • Mate choice
  • Maternal effect
  • Polyandry
  • Seminal peptide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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