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Although multiple lines of evidence suggest that early adult life is very important in shaping the reproductive behavior of males, few studies have looked at the fitness consequences of the variation in reproductive behavior induced by differences in early life experience of males. Using a long term laboratory adapted population of Drosophila melanogaster Meigen (Diptera: Drosophilidae), early life experience, in terms of co-inhabitant numbers, was found to affect male mating behavior and at least one fitness component. However, in contrast to previous studies, a non-linear relationship was found between early life experience and fitness components and a significant effect of co-inhabitant number on copulation duration and sperm defense. Both these traits showed a sharp increase as the co-inhabitant numbers changed from 1 to 16. However, there was a decline in the trait values as the co-inhabitant number increased further. The probable causes for the observed non-linear pattern of responses are discussed.
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