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We conducted field observations of physical competition for mates, in which a single male attempts to usurp a female from another male, in male Japanese beetles, Popillia japonica Newman (Coleoptera; Scarabaeidae). Physical contests for mates were relatively rare, but when they occurred the challenger male was able to successfully takeover females by dislodging the previously paired resident male in only 18% of contests, suggesting that a substantial prior residency advantage exists in this species. Challenger males that were successful in takeover attempts were significantly larger than the resident male. In contrast, no size pattern was found between intruding males and residents in unsuccessful takeover attempts. The frequency of contests for existing pairs was examined throughout the day. Pair frequency was greatest in early morning and in the evening but contest frequency was highest during the middle of the day. Contest frequency was negatively related to beetle density but not related to temperature. Overall, physical contests for mates appear to be an important part of the mating behavior in Japanese beetles. The frequency of the contests relates to the time of day and social conditions and contest outcome is related to prior residency and the size of the intruding male relative to the paired male.
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