Firm coupling of genitalia is critical for copulation in most groups of insects. To counter female resistance that usually breaks off genital connection, male scorpionflies (Mecoptera: Panorpidae) usually provide nuptial gifts for the female and seize their mates with grasping devices. The notal organ, a modified clamp on tergum III of male scorpionflies, plays a significant role in seizing the female wings and helping maintain mating position during copulation. The mating behaviour remains unknown for the scorpionfly Furcatopanorpa longihypovalva (Hua and Cai, 2009) whose male lacks a notal organ. In this paper, we first attempt to study the mating behaviour of F. longihypovalva. The results show that the male provides liquid salivary secretion through a mouth-to-mouth mode for the female, and maintains copulation mainly by continuous provision of salivary secretion rather than by seizing the female with grasping devices. Thus the male copulates with the female in an atypical O-shaped position, with only their mouthparts and genitalia connected to each other. The salivary glands exhibit remarkable sexual dimorphism: short and bifurcated in the female, but well-developed and multi-furcated in the male. The extremely developed salivary glands of the male lay a structural foundation for the male to continuously provide liquid salivary secretion, and to help the male to mediate female resistance, being likely to serve as a compensation to his absence of the notal organ. We also investigated the functional morphology and copulatory mechanism of the male and female genitalia. The evolution of the atypical mating pattern of F. longihypovalva is putatively discussed as an adaptation in the context of sexual conflict.

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Contributions to Zoology

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Naturalis journals & series

Zhong, W., Qi , Z.-Y., & Hua, B.-Z. (2015). Atypical mating in a scorpionfly without a notal organ. Contributions to Zoology, 84(4), 305–315.