Rapid hardening is a process that quickly improves an animal's performance following exposure to potentially damaging stress. In this study of the Antarctic midge, Belgica antarctica (Diptera, Chironomidae), we examined how rapid hardening in response to dehydration (RDH) or cold (RCH) improves male pre- and post-copulatory function when the insects are subsequently subjected to a damaging cold exposure. Neither RDH nor RCH improved survival in response to lethal cold stress, but male activity and mating success following sublethal cold exposure were enhanced. Egg viability decreased following direct exposure of the mating males to sublethal cold but improved following RCH and RDH. Sublethal cold exposure reduced the expression of four accessory gland proteins, while expression remained high in males exposed to RCH. Though rapid hardening may be cryptic in males, this study shows that it can be revealed by pre- and post-copulatory interactions with females.

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