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Insect dispersal dimorphisms, in which both flight-capable and flightless individuals occur in the same species, are thought to reflect a balance between the benefits and costs of dispersal. Fitness costs and benefits associated with wing dimorphism were investigated in the male pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris) (Hemiptera: Aphididae). In one-on-one mating competitions in small arenas between winged and wingless males, the winged aphids obtained most of the matings with virgin females. In contrast, during competition experiments in larger cages with multiple individuals of each morph, the winged males no longer had a clear mating advantage over wingless males. In the absence of competition, wingless males had marginally higher lifetime reproductive success than winged males, probably because mating winged males tended to die faster than wingless males. In the absence of females, winged males survived longer than wingless males and this difference disappeared under starvation conditions. Mating males of both morphs died significantly faster than males without access to females. There does not appear to be a direct tradeoff of dispersal ability with life history characteristics in pea aphid males, suggesting that the advantages of producing winged males may result from outbreeding.
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