Intense competition for access to females can lead to males exploiting different components of sexual selection, and result in the evolution of alternative mating strategies (AMSs). Males of Poecilia parae, a colour polymorphic fish, exhibit five distinct phenotypes: drab-coloured (immaculata), striped (parae), structural-coloured (blue) and carotenoid-based red and yellow morphs. Previous work indicates that immaculata males employ a sneaker strategy, whereas the red and yellow morphs exploit female preferences for carotenoid-based colours. Mating strategies favouring the maintenance of the other morphs remain to be determined. Here, we report the role of agonistic male-male interactions in influencing female mating preferences and male mating success, and in facilitating the evolution of AMSs.
Our study reveals variation in aggressiveness among P. parae morphs during indirect and direct interactions with sexually receptive females. Two morphs, parae and yellow, use aggression to enhance their mating success (i.e., number of copulations) by 1) directly monopolizing access to females, and 2) modifying female preferences after winning agonistic encounters. Conversely, we found that the success of the drab-coloured immaculata morph, which specializes in a sneak copulation strategy, relies in its ability to circumvent both male aggression and female choice when facing all but yellow males.
Strong directional selection is expected to deplete genetic variation, yet many species show striking genetically-based polymorphisms. Most studies evoke frequency dependent selection to explain the persistence of such variation. Consistent with a growing body of evidence, our findings suggest that a complex form of balancing selection may alternatively explain the evolution and maintenance of AMSs in a colour polymorphic fish. In particular, this study demonstrates that intrasexual competition results in phenotypically distinct males exhibiting clear differences in their levels of aggression to exclude potential sexual rivals. By being dominant, the more aggressive males are able to circumvent female mating preferences for attractive males, whereas another male type incorporates subordinate behaviours that allow them to circumvent male aggression and female mating preferences. Together, these and previous results indicate that exploiting different aspects of social interactions may allow males to evolve distinct mating strategies and thus the long term maintenance of polymorphisms within populations.
Laboratory studies show that the components of sexual selection (e.g., mate choice and intrasexual competition) can profoundly affect the development and fitness of offspring. Less is known, however, about the total effects of sexual selection on offspring in normal social conditions. Complex social networks, such as dominance hierarchies, regulate the opportunity for mating success, and are often missing from laboratory studies. Social selection is an extended view of sexual selection that incorporates competition during sexual and nonsexual interactions, and predicts complex evolutionary dynamics. Whether social selection improves or constrains offspring fitness is controversial.
To identify fitness consequences of social selection, wild-derived mice that had bred under laboratory conditions for eight generations were re-introduced to naturalistic competition in enclosures for three consecutive generations (promiscuous line). In parallel, a control lineage bred in cages under random mate assignment (monogamous line). A direct competition experiment using second-generation animals revealed that promiscuous line males had greater reproductive success than monogamous line males (particularly during extra-territorial matings), in spite of higher mortality and equivalent success in social dominance and sperm competition. There were no major female fitness effects (though promiscuous line females had fewer litters than monogamous line females). This result suggested that selection primarily acted upon a sexually attractive male phenotype in the promiscuous line, a hypothesis we confirmed in female odor and mating preference trials.
We present novel evidence for the strength of sexual selection under normal social conditions, and show rapid male adaptation driven largely by sexual trait expression, with tradeoffs in survivorship and female fecundity. Re-introducing wild-derived mice to competition quickly uncovers sexually selected phenotypes otherwise lost in normal colony breeding.
Social selection; Sexual selection; Mate choice; Chemical communication; Tradeoffs
Two very basic ideas in sexual selection are heavily influenced by numbers of potential mates: the evolution of anisogamy, leading to sex role differentiation, and the frequency dependence of reproductive success that tends to equalize primary sex ratios. However, being explicit about the numbers of potential mates is not typical to most evolutionary theory of sexual selection. Here, we argue that this may prevent us from finding the appropriate ecological equilibria that determine the evolutionary endpoints of selection. We review both theoretical and empirical advances on how population density may influence aspects of mating systems such as intrasexual competition, female choice or resistance, and parental care. Density can have strong effects on selective pressures, whether or not there is phenotypic plasticity in individual strategies with respect to density. Mating skew may either increase or decrease with density, which may be aided or counteracted by changes in female behaviour. Switchpoints between alternative mating strategies can be density dependent, and mate encounter rates may influence mate choice (including mutual mate choice), multiple mating, female resistance to male mating attempts, mate searching, mate guarding, parental care, and the probability of divorce. Considering density-dependent selection may be essential for understanding how populations can persist at all despite sexual conflict, but simple models seem to fail to predict the diversity of observed responses in nature. This highlights the importance of considering the interaction between mating systems and population dynamics, and we strongly encourage further work in this area.
sexual selection; population regulation; Allee effect; extinction; phenotypic plasticity
While search costs have long been understood to affect the evolution of female preference, other costs associated with mating have been the focus of much less attention. Here I consider a novel mate choice cost: female-female intrasexual competition, that is, when females compete with each other for mates. This competition results in cost to female fecundity, such as a reduction in fertility due to decreased direct benefits, sperm limitation, or time and resources spent competing for a mate. I asked if female-female competition affects the evolution of preferences, and further, if the presence of multiple, different, preferences in a population can reduce competitive costs.
Using population genetic models of preference and trait evolution, I found that intrasexual competition leads to direct selection against female preferences, and restricts the parameter space under which preference may evolve. I also examined how multiple, different, preferences affected preference evolution with female intrasexual competition.
Multiple preferences primarily serve to increase competitive costs and decrease the range of parameters under which preferences may evolve.
Sexual selection; Mate choice; Female preference; Competition; Population genetics
Recently refined evolutionary theories propose that sexual selection and reproductive conflict could be drivers of speciation. Male and female reproductive optima invariably differ because the potential reproductive rate of males almost always exceeds that of females: females are selected to maximize mate 'quality', while males can increase fitness through mate 'quantity'. A dynamic, sexually selected conflict therefore exists in which 'competitive' males are selected to override the preference tactics evolved by 'choosy' females. The wide variation across taxa in mating systems therefore generates variance in the outcome of intrasexual conflict and the strength of sexual selection: monandry constrains reproductive heterozygosity and allows female choice to select and maintain particular (preferred) genes; polyandry promotes reproductive heterozygosity and will more likely override female choice. Two different theories predict how sexual selection might influence speciation. Traditional ideas indicate that increased sexual selection (and hence conflict) generates a greater diversity of male reproductive strategies to be counteracted by female mate preferences, thus providing elevated potentials for speciation as more evolutionary avenues of male-female interaction are created. A less intuitively obvious theory proposes that increased sexual selection and conflict constrains speciation by reducing the opportunities for female mate choice under polyandry. We use a comparative approach to test these theories by investigating whether two general measures of sexual selection and the potential for sexual conflict have influenced speciation. Sexual size dimorphism (across 480 mammalian genera, 105 butterfly genera and 148 spider genera) and degree of polyandry (measured as relative testes size in mammals (72 genera) and mating frequency in female butterflies (54 genera)) showed no associations with the variance in speciosity. Our results therefore show that speciation occurs independently of sexual selection.
Leks are classic models for studies of sexual selection due to extreme variance in male reproductive success, but the relative influence of intrasexual competition and female mate choice in creating this skew is debatable. In the lekking lance-tailed manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata), these selective episodes are temporally separated into intrasexual competition for alpha status and female mate choice among alpha males that rarely interact. Variance in reproductive success between status classes of adult males (alpha versus non-alpha) can therefore be attributed to male–male competition whereas that within status largely reflects female mate choice. This provides an excellent opportunity for quantifying the relative contribution of each of these mechanisms of sexual selection to the overall opportunity for sexual selection on males (Imales). To calculate variance in actual reproductive success, we assigned genetic paternity to 92.3% of 447 chicks sampled in seven years. Reproduction by non-alphas was rare and apparently reflected status misclassifications or opportunistic copulations en route to attaining alpha status rather than alternative mating strategies. On average 31% (range 7–44%, n=6 years) of the total Imales was due to variance in reproductive success between alphas and non-alphas. Similarly, in a cohort of same-aged males followed for six years, 44–58% of the total Imales was attributed to variance between males of different status. Thus, both intrasexual competition for status and female mate choice among lekking alpha males contribute substantially to the potential for sexual selection in this species.
sexual selection; reproductive skew; lek; cooperation; mate choice; male–male competition
Ornaments, weapons and aggressive behaviours may evolve in female animals by mate choice and intrasexual competition for mating opportunities—the standard forms of sexual selection in males. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that selection tends to operate in different ways in males and females, with female traits more often mediating competition for ecological resources, rather than mate acquisition. Two main solutions have been proposed to accommodate this disparity. One is to expand the concept of sexual selection to include all mechanisms related to fecundity; another is to adopt an alternative conceptual framework—the theory of social selection—in which sexual selection is one component of a more general form of selection resulting from all social interactions. In this study, we summarize the history of the debate about female ornaments and weapons, and discuss potential resolutions. We review the components of fitness driving ornamentation in a wide range of systems, and show that selection often falls outside the limits of traditional sexual selection theory, particularly in females. We conclude that the evolution of these traits in both sexes is best understood within the unifying framework of social selection.
females; intrasexual competition; mate choice; ornamentation; social competition; weapons
Both natural and sexual selection are thought to influence genetic diversity, but the study of the relative importance of these two factors on ecologically-relevant traits has traditionally focused on species with conventional sex-roles, with male-male competition and female-based mate choice. With its high variability and significance in both immune function and olfactory-mediated mate choice, the major histocompatibility complex (MHC/MH) is an ideal system in which to evaluate the relative contributions of these two selective forces to genetic diversity. Intrasexual competition and mate choice are both reversed in sex-role reversed species, and sex-related differences in the detection and use of MH-odor cues are expected to influence the intensity of sexual selection in such species. The seahorse, Hippocampus abdominalis, has an exceptionally highly developed form of male parental care, with female-female competition and male mate choice.
Here, we demonstrate that the sex-role reversed seahorse has a single MH class II beta-chain gene and that the diversity of the seahorse MHIIβ locus and its pattern of variation are comparable to those detected in species with conventional sex roles. Despite the presence of only a single gene copy, intralocus MHIIβ allelic diversity in this species exceeds that observed in species with multiple copies of this locus. The MHIIβ locus of the seahorse exhibits a novel expression domain in the male brood pouch.
The high variation found at the seahorse MHIIβ gene indicates that sex-role reversed species are capable of maintaining the high MHC diversity typical in most vertebrates.
Whether such species have evolved the capacity to use MH-odor cues during mate choice is presently being investigated using mate choice experiments. If this possibility can be rejected, such systems would offer an exceptional opportunity to study the effects of natural selection in isolation, providing powerful comparative models for understanding the relative importance of selective factors in shaping patterns of genetic variation.
It is well established that in humans, male voices are disproportionately lower pitched than female voices, and recent studies suggest that this dimorphism in fundamental frequency (F0) results from both intrasexual (male competition) and intersexual (female mate choice) selection for lower pitched voices in men. However, comparative investigations indicate that sexual dimorphism in F0 is not universal in terrestrial mammals. In the highly polygynous and sexually dimorphic Scottish red deer Cervus elaphus scoticus, more successful males give sexually-selected calls (roars) with higher minimum F0s, suggesting that high, rather than low F0s advertise quality in this subspecies. While playback experiments demonstrated that oestrous females prefer higher pitched roars, the potential role of roar F0 in male competition remains untested. Here we examined the response of rutting red deer stags to playbacks of re-synthesized male roars with different median F0s. Our results show that stags’ responses (latencies and durations of attention, vocal and approach responses) were not affected by the F0 of the roar. This suggests that intrasexual selection is unlikely to strongly influence the evolution of roar F0 in Scottish red deer stags, and illustrates how the F0 of terrestrial mammal vocal sexual signals may be subject to different selection pressures across species. Further investigations on species characterized by different F0 profiles are needed to provide a comparative background for evolutionary interpretations of sex differences in mammalian vocalizations.
Females are frequently harassed and harmed by males attempting to obtain matings. When these males are also “choosy” with their courtship, there may be negative consequences to the species' ability to adaptively evolve.
Adaptive mate choice by females is an important component of sexual selection in many species. The evolutionary consequences of male mate preferences, however, have received relatively little study, especially in the context of sexual conflict, where males often harm their mates. Here, we describe a new and counterintuitive cost of sexual selection in species with both male mate preference and sexual conflict via antagonistic male persistence: male mate choice for high-fecundity females leads to a diminished rate of adaptive evolution by reducing the advantage to females of expressing beneficial genetic variation. We then use a Drosophila melanogaster model system to experimentally test the key prediction of this theoretical cost: that antagonistic male persistence is directed toward, and harms, intrinsically higher-fitness females more than it does intrinsically lower-fitness females. This asymmetry in male persistence causes the tails of the population's fitness distribution to regress towards the mean, thereby reducing the efficacy of natural selection. We conclude that adaptive male mate choice can lead to an important, yet unappreciated, cost of sex and sexual selection.
In many species, females are frequently subject to harassing courtship from males attempting to mate with them. These persistent male behaviors can result in females incurring substantial direct fitness costs. We set out to examine how these costs may influence adaptive potential in a species that also exhibits male mate choice, i.e., a preference by males for females exhibiting certain traits. We found that harmful courtship behaviors were directed predominantly towards females of greater reproductive potential (and away from females of lesser potential), resulting in a reduction in the variation of lifetime reproductive successes among females in the population. This change in distribution of realized fitnesses represents a previously unappreciated consequence of sexual conflict–adaptive male mate preference can slow the rate of accumulation of beneficial mutations and speed the rate of accumulation of harmful mutations, thereby creating a “sexual conflict adaptive load” within a species.
In many species, females show reduced expression of a trait that is under sexual selection in males, and this expression is thought to be maintained through genetic associations with the male phenotype. However, there is also the potential for the female trait to convey an advantage in intrasexual conflicts over resources. We tested this hypothesis in a feral population of Soay sheep, in which males and females have a polymorphism for horn development, producing either full (normal horned), reduced (scurred) or no (polled, females only) horns. During the lambing period, females who possessed horns were more likely to initiate and win aggressive interactions, independent of age, weight and birthing status. The occurrence of aggression was also context dependent, decreasing over the lambing period and associated with local density. Our results demonstrate that a trait that confers benefits to males during intrasexual competition for mates may also be used by females in intrasexual competition over resources: males use weaponry to gain mates, whereas females use weaponry to gain food.
female aggression; intrasexual competition; polymorphism; sexual selection
Sexual conflict occurs when the evolutionary interests of the sexes differ and it broadly applies to decisions over mating, fertilization and parental investment. Recently, a narrower view of sexual conflict has emerged in which direct selection on females to avoid male-imposed costs during mating is considered the distinguishing feature of conflict, while indirect selection is considered negligible. In this view, intersexual selection via sensory bias is seen as the most relevant mechanism by which male traits that harm females evolve, with antagonistic coevolution between female preferences and male manipulation following. Under this narrower framework, female preference and resistance have been synonymized because both result in a mating bias, and similarly male display and coercion are not distinguished. Our recent work on genital evolution in waterfowl has highlighted problems with this approach. In waterfowl, preference and resistance are distinct components of female phenotype, and display and coercion are independent male strategies. Female preference for male displays result in mate choice, while forced copulations by unpreferred males result in resistance to prevent these males from achieving matings and fertilizations. Genital elaborations in female waterfowl appear to function in reinforcing female preference to maintain the indirect benefits of choice rather than to reduce the direct costs of coercive mating. We propose a return to a broader view of conflict where indirect selection and intrasexual selection are considered important in the evolution of conflict.
forced extra-pair copulations; genital evolution; sexually antagonistic coevolution; female preference; ducks
•Many reproductive traits are shared across the sexes.•Shared traits can be influenced by both sexes or just one.•We identified male-specific control of mating duration in response to sexual competition in fruitflies.•Male-specific control is associated with significant male fitness benefits and could arise because of sexual conflict.
Males of many species assess the likely level of sperm competition and respond adaptively, for example by increasing the level of courtship they deliver, by transferring more sperm or seminal fluids or by extending matings. In mechanistic terms, it may be easier for males to adjust the level of their investment to the likely level of sperm competition for male-limited traits such as sperm and seminal fluid production over which they have control. However, for shared traits, such as mating duration, that are expressed at a level determined by direct interactions between males and females, adaptive responses by males to competition could be constrained. This need not be the case, however, if males have significant influence over the expression of such traits. Understanding which sex can most influence the expression of shared traits in response to sexual competition is important in order to document the range of strategic, plastic responses that are available to each sex. However, direct tests of these ideas require, as in this study, measurements of the effect on a shared trait of manipulating the ability of one, but not the other, sex to influence it. We studied the responses of male Drosophila melanogaster to sexual competition, in which mating duration is increased following exposure to rivals, resulting in significantly increased paternity share. Males were allowed to respond normally to the presence of rivals prior to mating, but female responses to males were reduced via decapitation and immobilisation. We found that matings with both intact and decapitated, immobilised females were significantly longer with males that had been exposed to rivals prior to mating. Hence males could maintain their responses to rivals with intact and decapitated females, suggesting significant male influence over the ability to extend mating duration in this context. However, overall, mating duration was significantly longer with intact in comparison to decapitated females. Whether this is due to a female influence over mating duration in general, or whether males respond differently to immobilised females, is not yet known. Gaining a fuller understanding of sex-specific control of plastic traits will be important in the future for understanding how reproductive traits evolve and function.
Copulation; Mating latency; Sperm competition; Drosophila melanogaster; Male–male competition
Emerging evidence suggests that epigenetic-based mechanisms contribute to various aspects of sex differences in brain and behavior. The major obstacle in establishing and fully understanding this linkage is identifying the traits that are most susceptible to epigenetic modification. We have proposed that sexual selection provides a conceptual framework for identifying such traits. These are traits involved in intrasexual competition for mates and intersexual choice of mating partners and generally entail a combination of male–male competition and female choice. These behaviors are programmed during early embryonic and postnatal development, particularly during the transition from the juvenile to adult periods, by exposure of the brain to steroid hormones, including estradiol and testosterone. We evaluate the evidence that endocrine-disrupting compounds, including bisphenol A, can interfere with the vital epigenetic and gene expression pathways and with the elaboration of sexually selected traits with epigenetic mechanisms presumably governing the expression of these traits. Finally, we review the evidence to suggest that these steroid hormones can induce a variety of epigenetic changes in the brain, including the extent of DNA methylation, histone protein alterations, and even alterations of noncoding RNA, and that many of the changes differ between males and females. Although much previous attention has focused on primary sex differences in reproductive behaviors, such as male mounting and female lordosis, we outline why secondary sex differences related to competition and mate choice might also trace their origins back to steroid-induced epigenetic programming in disparate regions of the brain.
DNA methylation; histone proteins; neurodevelopment; sex dimorphism; steroid hormones
Emerging evidence suggests that epigenetic-based mechanisms contribute to various aspects
of sex differences in brain and behavior. The major obstacle in establishing and fully
understanding this linkage is identifying the traits that are most susceptible to
epigenetic modification. We have proposed that sexual selection provides a conceptual
framework for identifying such traits. These are traits involved in intrasexual
competition for mates and intersexual choice of mating partners and generally entail a
combination of male–male competition and female choice. These behaviors are
programmed during early embryonic and postnatal development, particularly during the
transition from the juvenile to adult periods, by exposure of the brain to steroid
hormones, including estradiol and testosterone. We evaluate the evidence that
endocrine-disrupting compounds, including bisphenol A, can interfere with the vital
epigenetic and gene expression pathways and with the elaboration of sexually selected
traits with epigenetic mechanisms presumably governing the expression of these traits.
Finally, we review the evidence to suggest that these steroid hormones can induce a
variety of epigenetic changes in the brain, including the extent of DNA methylation,
histone protein alterations, and even alterations of noncoding RNA, and that many of the
changes differ between males and females. Although much previous attention has focused on
primary sex differences in reproductive behaviors, such as male mounting and female
lordosis, we outline why secondary sex differences related to competition and mate choice
might also trace their origins back to steroid-induced epigenetic programming in disparate
regions of the brain.
DNA methylation; histone proteins; neurodevelopment; sex dimorphism; steroid hormones
The Darwin–Bateman paradigm recognizes competition among males for access to multiple mates as the main driver of sexual selection. Increasingly, however, females are also being found to benefit from multiple mating so that polyandry can generate competition among females for access to multiple males, and impose sexual selection on female traits that influence their mating success. Polyandry can reduce a male's ability to monopolize females, and thus weaken male focused sexual selection. Perhaps the most important effect of polyandry on males arises because of sperm competition and cryptic female choice. Polyandry favours increased male ejaculate expenditure that can affect sexual selection on males by reducing their potential reproductive rate. Moreover, sexual selection after mating can ameliorate or exaggerate sexual selection before mating. Currently, estimates of sexual selection intensity rely heavily on measures of male mating success, but polyandry now raises serious questions over the validity of such approaches. Future work must take into account both pre- and post-copulatory episodes of selection. A change in focus from the products of sexual selection expected in males, to less obvious traits in females, such as sensory perception, is likely to reveal a greater role of sexual selection in female evolution.
Bateman gradient; direct and indirect benefits; mating competition; sex roles; sperm competition; variation in reproductive success
We evaluated the influence of pre- and post-copulatory sexual selection upon male reproductive traits in a naturally promiscuous species, Drosophila melanogaster. Sexual selection was removed in two replicate populations through enforced monogamous mating with random mate assignment or retained in polyandrous controls. Monogamous mating eliminates all opportunities for mate competition, mate discrimination, sperm competition, cryptic female choice and, hence, sexual conflict. Levels of divergence between lines in sperm production and male fitness traits were quantified after 38-81 generations of selection. Three a priori predictions were tested: (i) male investment in spermatogenesis will be lower in monogamy-line males due to the absence of sperm competition selection, (ii) due to the evolution of increased male benevolence, the fitness of females paired with monogamy-line males will be higher than that of females paired with control-line males, and (iii) monogamy-line males will exhibit decreased competitive reproductive success relative to control-line males. The first two predictions were supported, whereas the third prediction was not. Monogamy males evolved a smaller body size and the size of their testes and the number of sperm within the testes were disproportionately further reduced. In contrast, the fitness of monogamous males (and their mates) was greater when reproducing in a non-competitive context: females mated once with monogamous males produced offspring at a faster rate and produced a greater total number of surviving progeny than did females mated to control males. The results indicate that sexual selection favours the production of increased numbers of sperm in D. melanogaster and that sexual selection favours some male traits conferring a direct cost to the fecundity of females.
Evolutionary theory predicts that female intrasexual competition will occur when males of high genetic quality are considered to be a resource. It is probable that women compete in terms of attractiveness since this is one of the primary criteria used by men when selecting mates. Furthermore, because hormones influence the mate-selection process, they may also mediate competition. One competitive strategy that women use is derogation--any act intended to decrease a rival's perceived value. To investigate intrasexual competition through derogation, the influence of oestrogen on women's ratings of female facial attractiveness was examined. During periods of high oestrogen, competition, and hence derogation, increased, as evidenced by lower ratings of female facial attractiveness. By contrast, oestrogen levels did not significantly affect ratings of male faces. These findings support the theory of female intrasexual competition with respect to attractiveness.
Sexual selection is a major force driving evolution and is intertwined with ecological factors. Differential allocation of limited resources has a central role in the cost of reproduction. In this paper, I review the costs and benefits of mating in tettigoniids, focussing on nuptial gifts, their trade-off with male calling songs, protandry and how mate density influences mate choice. Tettigoniids have been widely used as model systems for studies of mating costs and benefits; they can provide useful general insights. The production and exchange of large nuptial gifts by males for mating is an important reproductive strategy in tettigoniids. As predicted by sexual selection theory spermatophylax size is condition dependent and is constrained by the need to invest in calling to attract mates also. Under some circumstances, females benefit directly from the nuptial gifts by an increase in reproductive output. However, compounds in the nuptial gift can also benefit the male by prolonging the period before the female remates. There is also a trade-off between adult male maturation and mating success. Where males mature before females (protandry) the level of protandry varies in the direction predicted by sperm competition theory; namely, early male maturation is correlated with a high level of first inseminations being reproductively successful. Lastly, mate density in bushcrickets is an important environmental factor influencing the behavioural decisions of individuals. Where mates are abundant, individuals are more choosey of mates; when they are scarce, individuals are less choosey. This review reinforces the view that tettigoniids provide excellent models to test and understand the economics of matings in both sexes.
Tettigoniidae; Bushcrickets; Katydids; Sexual selection; Female choice; Economics of mating; Different allocation hypothesis; Mating decisions; Spermatophores; Acoustic communication
Assortative mating patterns for mate quality traits like body size are often observed in nature. However, the underlying mechanisms that cause assortative mating patterns are less well known. Sexual selection is one important explanation for assortment, suggesting that i) one (usually the female) or both sexes could show preferences for mates of similar size or ii) mutual mate choice could resolve sexual conflict over quality traits into assortment. We tested these hypotheses experimentally in the socially monogamous cichlid fish Pelvicachromis taeniatus, in which mate choice is mutual.
In mate choice experiments, both sexes preferred large mates irrespective of own body size suggesting mating preferences are not size-assortative. Especially males were highly selective for large females, probably because female body size signals direct fitness benefits. However, when potential mates were able to interact and assess each other mutually they showed size-assortative mating patterns, i.e. the likelihood to mate was higher in pairs with low size differences between mates.
Due to variation in body size, general preferences for large mating partners result in a sexual conflict: small, lower quality individuals who prefer themselves large partners are unacceptable for larger individuals. Relative size mismatches between mates translate into a lower likelihood to mate, suggesting that the threshold to accept mates depends on own body size. These results suggest that the underlying mechanism of assortment in P. taeniatus is mutual mate choice resolving the sexual conflict over mates, rather than preference for mates of similar size.
Mate choice may be exercised by either sex; however, females are generally choosier than males because they invest more in their gametes. Female choice is often based on direct benefits, such as better reproductive output, whereas male choice appears to be based on differences in female fecundity. However, when gamete production is limited, sexual selection theories predict that mate choice will be decisive for reproductive success in both sexes. Here, we investigate how mating advantage is achieved in Drosophila bifurca, a giant sperm species in which both sexes produce only a few gametes. Our initial expectations were as follows: (1) females would discriminate against sperm-depleted males to avoid fertility cost; and (2) males would discriminate against inseminated females to reduce sperm competition and increase the assurance of paternity of individual gametes. Differences in courtship behaviors were analyzed with regard to the sexual maturity, which is reached after 22 days in males at 21°C, and the reproductive history of both sexes (inseminated versus virgin for females, and sperm-depleted versus sperm-loaded for males). Our results show that: (1) sexual immaturity precludes mating in both sexes; (2) virgin females do not discriminate between sperm-loaded and sperm-depleted males, and (3) males mate preferentially with virgin females, because inseminated females fend off the male, which tended to bring male courtship to an end. Female remating was limited, but increased significantly when the first male was sperm-depleted. Contrary to our initial expectations, these findings suggest that male sperm depletion does not affect female mating preference, whereas the success of male courtship is driven by female behavior. The possibility that female remating was only promoted in response to low sperm transfer is discussed in relation to the gametic system of this species.
copulation duration; frequency of remating; reproductive behavior; sexual maturity; sperm-limited species
Females prefer male traits that are associated with direct and/or indirect benefits to themselves. Male–male competition also drives evolution of male traits that represent competitive ability. Because female choice and male–male competition rarely act independently, exploring how these two mechanisms interact is necessary for integrative understanding of the evolution of sexually selected traits. Here, we focused on direct and indirect benefits to females from male attractiveness, courtship, and weapon characters in the armed bug Riptortus pedestris. The males use their hind legs to fight other males over territory and perform courtship displays for successful copulation. Females of R. pedestris receive no direct benefit from mating with attractive males. On the other hand, we found that male attractiveness, courtship rate, and weapon size were significantly heritable and that male attractiveness had positive genetic covariances with both courtship rate and weapon traits. Thus, females obtain indirect benefits from mating with attractive males by producing sons with high courtship success rates and high competitive ability. Moreover, it is evident that courtship rate and hind leg length act as evaluative cues of female choice. Therefore, female mate choice and male–male competition may facilitate each other in R. pedestris. This is consistent with current basic concepts of sexual selection.
Studies of mate choice in anuran amphibians have shown female preference for a wide range of male traits despite females gaining no direct resources from males (i.e. non-resource based mating system). Nevertheless, theoretical and empirical studies have shown that females may still gain indirect genetic benefits from choosing males of higher genetic quality and thereby increase their reproductive success.
We investigated two components of sexual selection in the Moor frog (Rana arvalis), pre-copulatory female choice between two males of different size (‘large’ vs. ‘small’), and their fertilization success in sperm competition and in isolation. Females' showed no significant preference for male size (13 small and six large male preferences) but associated preferentially with the male that subsequently was the most successful at fertilizing her eggs in isolation. Siring success of males in competitive fertilizations was unrelated to genetic similarity with the female and we detected no effect of sperm viability on fertilization success. There was, however, a strong positive association between a male's innate fertilization ability with a female and his siring success in sperm competition. We also detected a strong negative effect of a male's thumb length on his competitive siring success.
Our results show that females show no preference for male size but are still able to choose males which have greater fertilization success. Genetic similarity and differences in the proportion of viable sperm within a males ejaculate do not appear to affect siring success. These results could be explained through pre- and/or postcopulatory choice for genetic benefits and suggest that females are able to perceive the genetic quality of males, possibly basing their choice on multiple phenotypic male traits.
Conflicts between the sexes over control of reproduction are thought to lead to a cost of sexual selection through the evolution of male traits that manipulate female reproductive physiology and behaviour, and female traits that resist this manipulation. Although studies have begun to document negative fitness effects of sexual conflict, studies showing the expected association between sexual conflict and the specific behavioural mechanisms of sexual selection are lacking. Here we experimentally manipulated the opportunity for sexual conflict in the cockroach. Nauphoeta cinerea and showed that, for this species, odour cues in the social environment influence the behavioural strategies and fitness of males and females during sexual selection. Females provided with the opportunity for discriminating between males but not necessarily mating with preferred males produced fewer male offspring than females mated at random. The number of female offspring produced was not affected, nor was the viability of the offspring. Experimental modification of the composition of the males' pheromone showed that the fecundity effects were caused by exposure to the pheromone component that makes males attractive to females but also makes males less likely to be dominant. Female mate choice therefore carries a demographic cost but functions to avoid male manipulation and aggression. Male-male competition appears to function to circumvent mate choice rather than directly manipulating females, as the mate choice can be cryptic. The dynamic struggle between the sexes for control of mating opportunities and outcomes in N. cinerea therefore reveals a unique role for sexual conflict in the evolution of the behavioural components of sexual selection.
Male mating signals, including ornaments and courtship displays, and other sexually selected traits, like male-male aggression, are largely controlled by sex hormones. Environmental pollutants, notably endocrine disrupting compounds, can interfere with the proper functioning of hormones, thereby impacting the expression of hormonally regulated traits. Atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides, can alter sex hormone levels in exposed animals. I tested the effects of environmentally relevant atrazine exposures on mating signals and behaviors in male guppies, a sexually dimorphic freshwater fish. Prolonged atrazine exposure reduced the expression of two honest signals: the area of orange spots (ornaments) and the number of courtship displays performed. Atrazine exposure also reduced aggression towards competing males in the context of mate competition. In the wild, exposure levels vary among individuals because of differential distribution of the pollutants across habitats; hence, differently impacted males often compete for the same mates. Disrupted mating signals can reduce reproductive success as females avoid mating with perceptibly suboptimal males. Less aggressive males are at a competitive disadvantage and lose access to females. This study highlights the effects of atrazine on ecologically relevant mating signals and behaviors in exposed wildlife. Altered reproductive traits have important implications for population dynamics, evolutionary patterns, and conservation of wildlife species.