Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2014


Background: Same-sex pairing is common in many animal species. In many insects, same-sex pairing is often thought to be a result of poor sexual discrimination (i.e., a mistake), but few detailed studies of the mechanisms underlying the mistaken pairing have been conducted. Previous studies have found that in the field, a small proportion of Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) mating pairs consist of two males instead of a male and a female. In the current study, we investigated the relationship between body size, the tendency to mount other males, and the duration of these mounts, in laboratory experiments on male Japanese beetles.

Results: In the first experiment, we observed male-male mounting in all-male groups in which each male had been uniquely marked. Males of all sizes were likely to mount other males and extend their aedeagus (copulatory organ), but the mounts were longer, and aedeagus extension was more likely to occur, if the mounted beetle (in the ‘female’ position) was larger than the mounting beetle (in the ‘male’ position). In the second experiment, we observed male-female behavior in mixed-sex groups. Females did not immediately copulate with males that had mounted them. If copulation did occur, males tended to remain on the back of females for an extended period of time. Males that mounted other males in mixed-sex groups tended to mate subsequently with a female and then stay with her.

Conclusions: We propose that the minimal physical difference between the sexes, in combination with benefits to the males of rapidly attempting to pair with any available female, explains the tendency for males to mount other males. Extended mounts may occur because larger individuals are more likely to be female and because of selection on males to persist in a copulation attempt when females do not immediately copulate with a male.