Mariana Wolfner uses genetic, biochemical and evolutionary approaches in Drosophila to study processes that occur around the time of fertilisation. A major focus is the function of seminal fluid proteins, known for their rapid evolution and role in postcopulatory sexual selection, which has led Mariana to collaborate widely with evolutionary biologists. Numerous students and postdocs have trained in her lab.
Mariana is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more about the Wolfner lab here.
Some changes triggered in females by a male insect’s seminal proteins disadvantage his rivals. For example, seminal proteins change the female’s behavior and/or pheromones to decrease the chance of a successful mating by a subsequent male. Other effects of insect seminal proteins can benefit the fertility of the original mating pair, such as increasing egg production, and stimulating feeding and modifying the gut to support the demands of higher egg production. Longterm persistence of these pro-fertility effects can benefit a subsequent mate of the female, who thus indirectly benefits from the prior male’s seminal proteins. Recently we discovered that a male Drosophila can also benefit directly from the seminal “sex peptide” provided by another male. After reviewing the indirect benefits of a Drosophila male’s seminal proteins to his rival, I will present Dr. Snigdha Misra’s data showing the direct effects, and then speculate on the implications.