Courtship behaviour of Phlebotomus papatasi the sand fly vector of cutaneous leishmaniasis
1 Chemical Ecology Group, Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine, Keele University, ST5 5BG, Keele, UK
2 Laboratoire d’Ecologie des Systèmes Vectoriels, Institut Pasteur de Tunis, 13 Place Pasteur, 1002, Tunis, Tunisia
Parasites & Vectors 2012, 5:179 doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-179Published: 30 August 2012
The sand fly Phlebotomus papatasi is an Old World vector of Leishmania major, the etiologic agent of zoonotic cutaneous leishmaniasis. This study describes the courtship behaviour of P. papatasi and compares it with that of Lutzomyia longipalpis, the New World vector of visceral leishmaniasis. Understanding the details of courtship behaviour in P. papatasi may help us to understand the role of sex pheromones in this important vector.
P. papatasi courtship was found to start with the female touching the male, leading him to begin abdomen bending and wing flapping. Following a period of leg rubbing and facing, the male flaps his wings while approaching the female. The female then briefly flaps her wings in response, to indicate that she is willing to mate, thereby signaling the male to begin copulation. Male P. papatasi did not engage in parading behaviour, which is performed by male L. longipalpis to mark out individual territories during lekking (the establishment and maintenance of mating aggregations), or wing-flap during copulation, believed to function in the production of audio signals important to mate recognition. In P. papatasi the only predictor of mating success for males was previous copulation attempts and for females stationary wing-flapping. By contrast, male L. longipalpis mating success is predicted by male approach-flapping and semi-circling behaviour and for females stationary wing-flapping.
The results show that there are important differences between the mating behaviours of P. papatasi and L. longipalpis. Abdomen bending, which does not occur in L. longipalpis, may act in the release of sex pheromone from an as yet unidentified site in the male abdomen. In male L. longipalpis wing-flapping is believed to be associated with distribution of male pheromone. These different behaviours are likely to signify significant differences in how pheromone is used, an observation that is consistent with field and laboratory observations.