Weaponry, size, and sex ratio affect spatial distribution within small and large groups of the maritime earwig (Anisolabis maritima)
Dodgen, Rose E. | Iyengar, Vikram K.
Dispersion patterns within a group can reveal important aspects about social interactions and sexual selection within a species. We examined the distribution patterns of the maritime earwig (Anisolabis maritima), an insect well suited for studies of aggression, sociality, and sexual selection since both sexes live in close proximity and possess weaponry in the form of sexually dimorphic pincers. To examine intra‐ and intersexual interactions within small groups, we conducted trials with three earwigs with limited access to shelters. In single‐sex trios, we found that both males and females exhibited strong size‐based intrasexual aggression, as larger individuals were less likely to be excluded from shelters; however, males were more likely to cohabitate than females. In mixed‐sex trios, we found that both males and females preferred smaller opposite‐sex partners, and cohabitation patterns indicate that both sex‐ and size‐based differences in aggression can influence overall spatial distribution. We also examined larger single‐sex and mixed‐sex groups of 18 earwigs to determine whether they had random, uniform, or clumped distributions. Similar to previous field observations, males tended to form aggregations, whereas females were distributed uniformly, a pattern indicative of territoriality. Mixed‐sex groups, on the other hand, were uniform during nocturnal periods of high activity but then become clumped after settling into more stable daytime positions. Overall, our results suggest that females have high levels of aggression regardless of the social context, whereas males alter their aggressive behavior in the presence of females.Show more [+] Less [-]