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Differential physiological responses of the German cockroach to social interactions during the ovarian cycle
Adrienn Uzsák, Coby Schal


In many animal species social interactions can influence the morphology, physiology, and behavior of individuals, including their rate of development and reproduction. Reproduction in cockroaches is regulated by juvenile hormone III (JH) and social interactions have been shown to accelerate female reproduction in the German cockroach, Blattella germanica (Linnaeus), by stimulating JH production. However, it is not clear in this or any other insect species whether social facilitation of the reproductive rate occurs throughout the ovarian cycle or only at certain stages. We compared the effects of social interactions during the pre-oviposition period when JH production is high and during gestation when little JH is produced, as well as during the first ovarian cycle when females are virgin and the second ovarian cycle after females had mated. Social interaction with one conspecific female was sufficient to accelerate JH production and oocyte maturation, but this effect was reversed by crowding. Social interactions also accelerated the onset of sexual receptivity in virgin females. However, social interactions failed to shorten gestation, suggesting that social cues stimulate JH production only when the corpora allata (CA) are active and not when CA activity is suppressed by the central nervous system. Females were most responsive to transient social isolation and transient social interactions when 2-3 days-old, suggesting that they are particularly sensitive to social interactions when their CA become active. Overall, these results show that all JH-dependent events in the reproductive cycle of B. germanica females are under the strong influence of social interactions.