Research ArticleECOLOGY

Adaptive switch to sexually dimorphic movements by partner-seeking termites

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Science Advances  19 Jun 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 6, eaau6108
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau6108


How should females and males move to search for partners whose exact location is unknown? Theory predicts that the answer depends on what they know about where targets can be found, raising the question of how actual animals update their mate search patterns to increase encounter probability when conditions change. Here, we show that termites adaptively alternate between sexually monomorphic and dimorphic movements during mate search. When the location of potential mates was completely unpredictable, both sexes moved in straight lines to explore widely. In contrast, when the stray partner was at least nearby, males moved while females paused. Data-based simulations confirmed that these movements increase the rate of successful encounters. The context-dependent switch of search modes is a key to enhance random encounters.

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