Environmental and genetic stress have well-known detrimental effects on ejaculate quality, but their concomitant effect on male fitness remains poorly understood. We used competitive fertilization assays to expose the effects of stress on offensive sperm competitive ability in the beetle Callosobruchus maculatus, a species where ejaculates make up more than 5% of male body mass. To examine the effects of environmental and genetic stress, males derived from outcrosses or sib matings were heat shocked at 50°C for 50 min during the pupal stage, while their siblings were maintained at a standard rearing temperature of 28°C. Heat-shocked males achieved only half the offensive paternity success of their siblings. While this population exhibited inbreeding depression in body size, sperm competitiveness was unaffected by inbreeding, nor did the effect of heat shock stress on sperm competitiveness depend on inbreeding status. In contrast, pupal emergence success was increased by 34% among heat-stressed individuals, regardless of their inbreeding status. Heat-shocked males' ejaculate size was 19% reduced, but they exhibited 25% increased mating duration in single mating trials. Our results highlight both the importance of stress in postcopulatory sexual selection, and the variability among stressors in affecting male fitness.
Ejaculate size; heat shock; Hsp; inbreeding; paternity; sperm competition; stress
Immune system maintenance and upregulation is costly. Sexual selection intensity, which increases male investment into reproductive traits, is expected to create trade-offs with immune function. We assayed phenoloxidase (PO) and lytic activity of individuals from populations of the Indian meal moth, Plodia interpunctella, which had been evolving under different intensities of sexual selection. We found significant divergence among populations, with males from female-biased populations having lower PO activity than males from balanced sex ratio or male-biased populations. There was no divergence in anti-bacterial lytic activity. Our data suggest that it is the increased male mating demands in female-biased populations that trades-off against immunity, and not the increased investment in sperm transfer per mating that characterizes male-biased populations.
sexual selection; sperm competition; immune function
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
Field crickets (family Gryllidae) frequently are used in studies of behavioral genetics, sexual selection, and sexual conflict, but there have been no studies of transcriptomic differences among different tissue types. We evaluated transcriptome variation among testis, accessory gland, and the remaining whole-body preparations from males of the field cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. Non-normalized cDNA libraries from each tissue were sequenced on the Roche 454 platform, and a master assembly was constructed using testis, accessory gland, and whole-body preparations. A total of 940,200 reads were assembled into 41,962 contigs, to which 36,856 singletons (reads not assembled into a contig) were added to provide a total of 78,818 sequences used in annotation analysis. A total of 59,072 sequences (75%) were unique to one of the three tissues. Testis tissue had the greatest proportion of tissue-specific sequences (62.6%), followed by general body (56.43%) and accessory gland tissue (44.16%). We tested the hypothesis that tissues expressing gene products expected to evolve rapidly as a result of sexual selection—testis and accessory gland—would yield a smaller proportion of BLASTx matches to homologous genes in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster compared with whole-body tissue. Uniquely expressed sequences in both testis and accessory gland showed a significantly lower rate of matching to annotated D. melanogaster genes compared with those from general body tissue. These results correspond with empirical evidence that genes expressed in testis and accessory gland tissue are rapidly evolving targets of selection.
field cricket; gryllid; reference transcriptome; Teleogryllus oceanicus; tissue-specific transcriptome
Genitalia appear to evolve rapidly and divergently in taxa with internal fertilization. The current consensus is that intense directional sexual selection drives the rapid evolution of genitalia. Recent research on the millipede Antichiropus variabilis suggests that the male genitalia are currently experiencing stabilizing selection – a pattern of selection expected for lock-and-key structures that enforce mate recognition and reproductive isolation. Here, we investigate how divergence in genital morphology affects reproductive compatibility among isolated populations of A. variabilis. Females from a focal population were mated first to a male from their own population and, second, to a male from one of two populations with divergent genital morphology. We observed variation in mating behavior that might indicate the emergence of precopulatory reproductive barriers: males from one divergent population took significantly longer to recognize females and exhibited mechanical difficulty in genital insertion. Moreover, we observed very low paternity success for extra-population males who were successful in copulating. Our data suggest that divergence in genital shape may be contributing to reproductive isolation, and incipient speciation among isolated populations of A. variabilis.
Lock-and-key; male genitalia; Millipede; population cross; sexual selection; species mate recognition
Cuticular hydrocarbons provide arthropods with the chemical equivalent of the visually extravagant plumage of birds. Their long chain length, together with the number and variety of positions in which methyl branches and double bonds occur, provide cuticular hydrocarbons with an extraordinary level of information content. Here, we demonstrate phenotypic plasticity in an individual's cuticular hydrocarbon profile. Using solid-phase microextraction, a chemical technique that enables multiple sampling of the same individual, we monitor short-term changes in cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of individual crickets, Teleogryllus oceanicus, in response to a social challenge. We experimentally manipulate the dominance status of males and find that dominant males, on losing fights with other dominant males, change their hydrocarbon profile to more closely resemble that of a subordinate. This result demonstrates that cuticular hydrocarbons can be far more responsive to changes in social dominance than previously realized.
social status; dominance; solid-phase microextraction; gas chromatography
Maternal effects are environmental influences on the phenotype of one individual that are due to the expression of genes in its mother, and are expected to evolve whenever females are better capable of assessing the environmental conditions that their offspring will experience than the offspring themselves. In the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus, conditional male dimorphism is associated with alternative reproductive tactics: majors fight and guard females whereas minors sneak copulations. Furthermore, variation in dung beetle population density has different fitness consequences for each male morph, and theory predicts that higher population density might select for a higher frequency of minors and/or greater expenditure on weaponry in majors. Because adult dung beetles provide offspring with all the nutritional resources for their development, maternal effects strongly influence male phenotype.
Here we tested whether female O. taurus are capable of perceiving population density, and responding by changing the phenotype of their offspring. We found that mothers who were reared with other conspecifics in their pre-mating period produced major offspring that had longer horns across a wider range of body sizes than the major offspring of females that were reared in isolation in their pre-mating period. Moreover, our results indicate that this maternal effect on male weaponry does not operate through the amount of dung provided by females to their offspring, but is rather transmitted through egg or brood mass composition. Finally, although theory predicts that females experiencing higher density might produce more minor males, we found no support for this, rather the best fitting models were equivocal as to whether fewer or the same proportions of minors were produced.
Our study describes a new type of maternal effect in dung beetles, which probably allows females to respond to population density adaptively, preparing at least their major offspring for the sexual competition they will face in the future. This new type of maternal effect in dung beetles represents a novel transgenerational response of alternative reproductive tactics to population density.
Maternal effects; Population density; Male dimorphism; Polyphenism; Phenotypic plasticity
Traditional models of sexual selection posit that male courtship signals evolve as indicators of underlying male genetic quality. An alternative hypothesis is that sexual conflict over mating generates antagonistic coevolution between male courtship persistence and female resistance. In the scarabaeine dung beetle Onthophagus taurus, females are more likely to mate with males that have high courtship rates. Here, we examine the effects of exposing females to males with either high or low courtship rates on female lifetime productivity and offspring viability. Females exposed to males with high courtship rates mated more often and produced offspring with greater egg–adult viability. Female productivity and lifespan were unaffected by exposure to males with high courtship rates. The data are consistent with models of sexual selection based on indirect genetic benefits, and provide little evidence for sexual conflict in this system.
female choice; genetic benefits; sexual conflict; courtship rate
Trade-offs between investment into male sexual traits and immune function provide the foundation for some of the most prominent models of sexual selection. Post-copulatory sexual selection on the male ejaculate is intense, and therefore trade-offs should occur between investment into the ejaculate and the immune system. Examples of such trade-offs exist, including that between sperm quality and immunity in the Australian cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. Here, we explore the dynamics of this trade-off, examining the effects that increased levels of sexual interaction have on the viability of a male's sperm across time, and the concomitant effects on immune function. Males were assigned to a treatment, whereby they cohabited with females that were sexually immature, sexually mature but incapable of copulation, or sexually mature and capable of copulation. Sperm viability of each male was then assessed at two time points: six and 13 days into the treatment, and immune function at day 13. Sperm viability decreased across the time points, but only for males exposed to treatment classes involving sexually mature females. This decrease was similar in magnitude across both sexually mature classes, indicating that costs to the expression of high sperm viability are incurred largely through levels of pre-copulatory investment. Males exposed to immature females produced sperm of low viability at both time points. Although we confirmed a weak negative association between sperm viability and lytic activity (a measure of immune response to bacterial infection) at day 13, this relationship was not altered across the mating treatment. Our results highlight that sperm viability is a labile trait, costly to produce, and subject to strategic allocation in these crickets.
Women find masculinity in men's faces, bodies, and voices attractive, and women's preferences for men's masculine features are thought to be biological adaptations for finding a high quality mate. Fertility is an important aspect of mate quality. Here we test the phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis, which proposes that male secondary sexual characters are positively related to semen quality, allowing females to obtain direct benefits from mate choice. Specifically, we examined women's preferences for men's voice pitch, and its relationship with men's semen quality. Consistent with previous voice research, women judged lower pitched voices as more masculine and more attractive. However men with lower pitched voices did not have better semen quality. On the contrary, men whose voices were rated as more attractive tended to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate. These data are more consistent with a trade off between sperm production and male investment in competing for and attracting females, than with the phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis.
Most of what we know about what makes a face attractive and why we have the preferences we do is based on attractiveness ratings of static images of faces, usually photographs. However, several reports that such ratings fail to correlate significantly with ratings made to dynamic video clips, which provide richer samples of appearance, challenge the validity of this literature. Here, we tested the validity of attractiveness ratings made to static images, using a substantial sample of male faces. We found that these ratings agreed very strongly with ratings made to videos of these men, despite the presence of much more information in the videos (multiple views, neutral and smiling expressions and speech-related movements). Not surprisingly, given this high agreement, the components of video-attractiveness were also very similar to those reported previously for static-attractiveness. Specifically, averageness, symmetry and masculinity were all significant components of attractiveness rated from videos. Finally, regression analyses yielded very similar effects of attractiveness on success in obtaining sexual partners, whether attractiveness was rated from videos or static images. These results validate the widespread use of attractiveness ratings made to static images in evolutionary and social psychological research. We speculate that this validity may stem from our tendency to make rapid and robust judgements of attractiveness.
Evolutionary biologists have argued that there should be a positive relationship between sperm size and sperm velocity, and that these traits influence a male's sperm competitiveness. However, comparative analyses investigating the evolutionary associations between sperm competition risk and sperm morphology have reported inconsistent patterns of association, and in vitro sperm competition experiments have further confused the issue; in some species, males with longer sperm achieve more competitive fertilization, while in other species males with shorter sperm have greater sperm competitiveness. Few investigations have attempted to address this problem. Here, we investigated the relationship between sperm morphology and sperm velocity in house mice (Mus domesticus). We conducted in vitro sperm velocity assays on males from established selection lines, and found that sperm midpiece size was the only phenotypic predictor of sperm swimming velocity.
sperm motility; sperm design; sperm competition; ejaculate quality
The persistence of genetic variability in performance traits such as strength is surprising given the directional selection that such traits experience, which should cause the fixation of the best genetic variants. One possible explanation is ‘genic capture’ which is usually considered as a candidate mechanism for the maintenance of high genetic variability in sexual signalling traits. This states that if a trait is ‘condition dependent’, with expression being strongly influenced by the bearer's overall viability, then genetic variability can be maintained via mutation-selection balance. Using a species of dimorphic beetle with males that gain matings either by fighting or by ‘sneaking’, we tested the prediction of strong condition dependence for strength, walking speed and testes mass. Strength was strongly condition dependent only in those beetles that fight for access to females. Walking speed, with less of an obvious selective advantage, showed no condition dependence, and testes mass was more condition dependent in sneaks, which engage in higher levels of sperm competition. Within a species, therefore, condition dependent expression varies between morphs, and corresponds to the specific selection pressures experienced by that morph. These results support genic capture as a general explanation for the maintenance of genetic variability in traits under directional selection.
performance; condition dependence; strength; sperm competition; mating tactics; horned beetle
Biologists studying adaptation under sexual selection have spent considerable effort assessing the relative importance of two groups of models, which hinge on the idea that females gain indirect benefits via mate discrimination. These are the good genes and genetic compatibility models. Quantitative genetic studies have advanced our understanding of these models by enabling assessment of whether the genetic architectures underlying focal phenotypes are congruent with either model. In this context, good genes models require underlying additive genetic variance, while compatibility models require non-additive variance. Currently, we know very little about how the expression of genotypes comprised of distinct parental haplotypes, or how levels and types of genetic variance underlying key phenotypes, change across environments. Such knowledge is important, however, because genotype-environment interactions can have major implications on the potential for evolutionary responses to selection.
We used a full diallel breeding design to screen for complex genotype-environment interactions, and genetic architectures underlying key morphological traits, across two thermal environments (the lab standard 27°C, and the cooler 23°C) in the Australian field cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. In males, complex three-way interactions between sire and dam parental haplotypes and the rearing environment accounted for up to 23 per cent of the scaled phenotypic variance in the traits we measured (body mass, pronotum width and testes mass), and each trait harboured significant additive genetic variance in the standard temperature (27°C) only. In females, these three-way interactions were less important, with interactions between the paternal haplotype and rearing environment accounting for about ten per cent of the phenotypic variance (in body mass, pronotum width and ovary mass). Of the female traits measured, only ovary mass for crickets reared at the cooler temperature (23°C), exhibited significant levels of additive genetic variance.
Our results show that the genetics underlying phenotypic expression can be complex, context-dependent and different in each of the sexes. We discuss the implications of these results, particularly in terms of the evolutionary processes that hinge on good and compatible genes models.
Secondary sexual traits in females are a relatively rare phenomenon. Empirical studies have focused on the role of male mate choice in their evolution; however, recently it has been suggested that secondary sexual traits in females are more likely to be under selection via reproductive competition. We investigated female competition and the influence of female phenotype on fitness in Onthophagus sagittarius, a species of dung beetle that exhibits female-specific horns. We compared reproductive fitness when females were breeding in competition versus breeding alone and found that competition for breeding resources reduced fitness for all females, but that smaller individuals suffered a greater fitness reduction than larger individuals. When females were matched for body size, those with the longest horns gained higher reproductive fitness. The fitness function was positive and linear, favouring increased horn expression. Thus, we present evidence that female body size and horn size in O. sagittarius are under directional selection via competition for reproductive resources. Our study is a rare example of female contest competition selecting for female weaponry.
reproductive competition; female horns; weaponry
Recent studies have suggested that males may vary the quality of their ejaculates in response to sperm competition, although the mechanisms by which they do so remain unclear. The viability of sperm is an important aspect of ejaculate quality that determines competitive fertilization success in the field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus. Using in vitro mixtures of sperm and seminal fluid from pairs of male crickets, we show that seminal fluid can affect the viability of sperm in this species. We found that males who invest greatly in the viability of their own sperm can enhance the viability of rival sperm, providing the opportunity for males to exploit the investments in sperm competition made by their rivals. Transitive effects of seminal fluids across the ejaculates of different males are expected to have important implications for the dynamics of male investments in sperm competition.
When females mate with multiple partners, sperm from rival males compete to fertilise the ova. Studies of experimental evolution have proven the selective action of sperm competition on male reproductive traits. However, while reproductive traits may evolve in response to sperm competition, this does not necessarily provide evidence that sperm competitive ability responds to selection. Indeed, a study of Drosophila failed to observe divergence in sperm competitive ability of males in lines selected for enhanced sperm offence and defence.
Adopting the naturally polygamous house mouse (Mus domesticus) as our vertebrate model, we performed an experimental evolution study and observed genetic divergence in sperm quality; males from the polygamous selection lines produced ejaculates with increased sperm numbers and greater sperm motility compared to males from the monogamous lines. Here, after 12 generations of experimental evolution, we conducted competitive matings between males from lineages evolving under sperm competition and males from lineages subject to relaxed selection. We reduced variation in paternity arising from embryo mortality by genotyping embryos in utero at 14 days gestation. Our microsatellite data revealed a significant paternity bias toward males that evolved under the selective regime of sperm competition.
We provide evidence that the sperm competitiveness phenotype can respond to selection, and show that improved sperm quality translates to greater competitive fertilisation success in house mice.
Whether species exhibit significant heritable variation in fitness is central for sexual selection. According to good genes models there must be genetic variation in males leading to variation in offspring fitness if females are to obtain genetic benefits from exercising mate preferences, or by mating multiply. However, sexual selection based on genetic benefits is controversial, and there is limited unambiguous support for the notion that choosy or polyandrous females can increase the chances of producing offspring with high viability. Here we examine the levels of additive genetic variance in two fitness components in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus. We found significant sire effects on egg-to-adult viability and on son, but not daughter, survival to sexual maturity, as well as moderate coefficients of additive variance in these traits. Moreover, we do not find evidence for sexual antagonism influencing genetic variation for fitness. Our results are consistent with good genes sexual selection, and suggest that both pre- and postcopulatory mate choice, and male competition could provide indirect benefits to females.
When sperm compete to fertilize available ova, selection is expected to favour ejaculate traits that contribute to a male's fertilization success. While there is much evidence to show that selection favours increased numbers of sperm, only a handful of empirical studies have examined how variation in sperm form and function contributes to competitive fertilization success. Here, we examine selection acting on sperm form and function in the externally fertilizing myobatrachid frog, Crinia georgiana. Using in vitro fertilization techniques and controlling for variation in the number of sperm contributed by males in competitive situations, we show that males with a greater proportion of motile sperm, and motile sperm with slower swimming velocities, have an advantage when competing for fertilizations. Sperm morphology and the degree of genetic similarity between putative sires and the female had no influence on competitive fertilization success. These unusual patterns of selection might explain why frog sperm typically exhibit relatively slow swimming speeds and sustained longevity.
sperm competition; polyandry; genetic compatibility; sperm velocity; sperm length; frogs
Sperm competition is expected to favour the evolution of traits that influence the performance of sperm when they compete to fertilize a female's eggs. While there is considerable evidence that selection favours increases in sperm numbers, much less is known about how sperm quality contributes towards competitive fertilization success. Here, we determine whether variation in sperm quality influences competitive fertilization success in the green swordtail Xiphophorus helleri, a highly promiscuous livebearing fish. We use artificial insemination as a method of controlled sperm delivery and show that sperm swimming velocity is the primary determinant of fertilization success when ejaculates from two males compete to fertilize a female's eggs. By contrast, we found no evidence that sperm length had any effect on siring success. We also found no evidence that pre- and postcopulatory sexual traits were phenotypically integrated in this species, suggesting that the previous observation that reproductive skew favours males with high mating rates is unlikely to be due to any direct association between sperm quality and male sexual ornamentation.
Evolutionary theory is firmly grounded on the existence of trade-offs between life-history traits, and recent interest has centred on the physiological mechanisms underlying such trade-offs. Several branches of evolutionary biology, particularly those focusing on ageing, immunological and sexual selection theory, have implicated reactive oxygen species (ROS) as profound evolutionary players. ROS are a highly reactive group of oxygen-containing molecules, generated as common by-products of vital oxidative enzyme complexes. Both animals and plants appear to intentionally harness ROS for use as molecular messengers to fulfil a wide range of essential biological processes. However, at high levels, ROS are known to exert very damaging effects through oxidative stress. For these reasons, ROS have been suggested to be important mediators of the cost of reproduction, and of trade-offs between metabolic rate and lifespan, and between immunity, sexual ornamentation and sperm quality. In this review, we integrate the above suggestions into one life-history framework, and review the evidence in support of the contention that ROS production will constitute a primary and universal constraint in life-history evolution.
reactive oxygen species; life-history trade-offs; evolutionary ecology; ageing; sexual selection
Female sexual promiscuity can have significant effects on male mating decisions because it increases the intensity of competition between ejaculates for fertilization. Because sperm production is costly, males that can detect multiple matings by females and allocate sperm strategically will have an obvious fitness advantage. The presence of rival males is widely recognized as a cue used by males to assess sperm competition. However, for species in which males neither congregate around nor guard females, other more cryptic cues might be involved. Here, we demonstrate unprecedented levels of sperm competition assessment by males, which is mediated via the use of chemical cues. Using the cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus, we manipulated male perception of sperm competition by experimentally coating live unmated females with cuticular compounds extracted from males. We found that males adjusted their ejaculate allocation in response to these compounds: the viability of sperm contained within a male's ejaculate decreased as the number of male extracts applied to his virgin female partner was increased. We further show that males do not respond to the relative concentration of male compounds present on females, but rather to the number of distinct signature odours of individual males. Our results conform to sperm competition theory, and show for the first time, to our knowledge, that males can detect different intensities of sperm competition by using distinct chemical cues of individual males present on females.
cuticular hydrocarbons; sperm competition; Teleogryllus oceanicus; sperm viability
Genetic diversity, especially at genes important for immune functioning within the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), has been associated with fitness-related traits, including disease resistance, in many species. Recently, genetic diversity has been associated with mate preferences in humans. Here we asked whether these preferences are adaptive in terms of obtaining healthier mates. We investigated whether genetic diversity (heterozygosity and standardized mean d2) at MHC and nonMHC microsatellite loci, predicted health in 153 individuals. Individuals with greater allelic diversity (d2) at nonMHC loci and at one MHC locus, linked to HLA-DRB1, reported fewer symptoms over a four-month period than individuals with lower d2. In contrast, there were no associations between MHC or nonMHC heterozygosity and health. NonMHC-d2 has previously been found to predict male preferences for female faces. Thus, the current findings suggest that nonMHC diversity may play a role in both natural and sexual selection acting on human populations.
Females in a wide range of taxa have been shown to base their choice of mates on pheromone signals. However, little research has focussed specifically on the form and intensity of selection that mate choice imposes on the pheromone signal. Using multivariate selection analysis, we characterise directly the form and intensity of sexual selection acting on cuticular hydrocarbons, chemical compounds widely used in the selection of mates in insects. Using the Australian field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus as a model organism, we use three measures of male attractiveness to estimate fitness; mating success, the duration of courtship required to elicit copulation, and subsequent spermatophore attachment duration.
We found that all three measures of male attractiveness generated sexual selection on male cuticular hydrocarbons, however there were differences in the form and intensity of selection among these three measures. Mating success was the only measure of attractiveness that imposed both univariate linear and quadratic selection on cuticular hydrocarbons. Although we found that all three attractiveness measures generated nonlinear selection, again only mating success was found to exert statistically significant stabilizing selection.
This study shows that sexual selection plays an important role in the evolution of male cuticular hydrocarbon signals.
Previous studies of the cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus have shown a paternity bias towards non-sibling males. Although non-kin-biased paternity could represent a mechanism of postcopulatory inbreeding avoidance by females, evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) models of ejaculate evolution also predict that males should reduce their expenditure on the ejaculate when mating with their sisters. Here we provide a test of these models, finding that male crickets invest equally in matings with full-siblings, half-siblings and non-sibling females. The data suggest that in this species, males and females differ in their response to inbreeding.
strategic ejaculation; ejaculate quality; inbreeding; cryptic female choice