The evolution of polyandry (female multiple mating)
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Polyandry is widespread despite its costs. The sexually selected sperm hypotheses (‘sexy’ and ‘good’ sperm) posit that sperm competition plays a role in the evolution of polyandry. Two poorly studied assumptions of these hypotheses are the presence of additive genetic variance in polyandry and sperm competitiveness. Using a quantitative genetic breeding design in a natural population of Drosophila melanogaster, we first established the potential for polyandry to respond to selection. We then investigated whether polyandry can evolve through sexually selected sperm processes. We measured lifetime polyandry and offensive sperm competitiveness (P2) while controlling for sampling variance due to male x male x female interactions. We also measured additive genetic variance in egg-to-adult viability and controlled for its effect on P2 estimates. Female lifetime polyandry showed significant and substantial additive genetic variance and evolvability. In contrast, we found little genetic variance or evolvability in P2 or egg-to-adult viability. Additive genetic variance in polyandry highlights its potential to respond to selection. However, the low levels of genetic variance in sperm competitiveness suggest the evolution of polyandry may not be driven by sexy sperm or good sperm processes.
Females that mate with multiple males (polyandry) may reduce the risk that their eggs are fertilized by a single unsuitable male. About 25 years ago it was hypothesized that bet-hedging could function as a mechanism favoring the evolution of polyandry, but this idea is controversial because theory indicates that bet-hedging via polyandry can compensate the costs of mating only in small populations. Nevertheless, populations are often spatially structured, and even in the absence of spatial structure, mate choice opportunity can be limited to a few potential partners. We examined the effectiveness of bet-hedging in such situations with simulations carried out under two scenarios; (1) intrinsic male quality, with offspring survival determined by male phenotype (male’s ability to generate viable offspring), and (2) genetic incompatibility (offspring fitness determined non-additively by parental genotypes). We find higher fixation probabilities for a polyandrous strategy compared to a monandrous strategy if complete reproductive failure due to male effects or parental incompatibility is pervasive in the population. Our results also indicate that bet-hedging polyandry can delay the extinction of small demes. Our results underscore the potential for bet-hedging to provide benefits to polyandrous females and have valuable implications for conservation biology.
The trade-off between survival and reproduction is fundamental to life history theory. Sexual selection is expected to favour a live fast die young life history pattern in males due to increased risk of extrinsic mortality associated with obtaining mates. Sexual conflict may also drive a genetic trade-off between reproduction and lifespan in females. We found significant additive genetic variance in longevity independent of lifetime mating frequency, and in early life mating frequency. There was significant negative genetic covariance between these traits indicating that females from families characterized by high levels of multiple mating early in life die sooner than females that engage in less intense early life mating. Thus, despite heritable variation in both traits, their independent evolution is constrained by an evolutionary trade-off. Our findings indicate that, in addition to the well-known male-driven direct costs of mating on female lifespan (mediated by male harassment and the harmful effects of male seminal fluids), females with a genetic propensity to mate multiply live shorter lives. We discuss the potential role of sexual conflict in driving the evolutionary trade-off between reproduction and lifespan in Drosophila. More generally, our data show that, like males, females can exhibit a live fast die young life history strategy.
The consequences of sexual interactions extend beyond the simple production of offspring. These interactions typically entail direct effects on female fitness, but may also impact the life histories of later generations. Evaluating the cross-generational effects of sexual interactions provides insights into the dynamics of sexual selection and conflict. Such studies can elucidate whether offspring fitness optima diverge across sexes upon heightened levels of sexual interaction among parents. Here, we found that, in Drosophila melanogaster, components of reproductive success in females, but not males, were contingent on the nature of sexual interactions experienced by their mothers. In particular, maternal sexual interactions with non-sires enhanced female fecundity in the following generation. This highlights the importance of non-sire influences of sexual interactions on the expression of offspring life histories.The consequences of sexual interactions extend beyond the simple production of offspring. These interactions typically entail direct effects on female fitness, but may also impact the life histories of later generations. Evaluating the cross-generational effects of sexual interactions provides insights into the dynamics of sexual selection and conflict. Such studies can elucidate whether offspring fitness optima diverge across sexes upon heightened levels of sexual interaction among parents. Here, we found that, in Drosophila melanogaster, components of reproductive success in females, but not males, were contingent on the nature of sexual interactions experienced by their mothers. In particular, maternal sexual interactions with non-sires enhanced female fecundity in the following generation. This highlights the importance of non-sire influences of sexual interactions on the expression of offspring life histories.
Polyandry (female multiple mating) has profound evolutionary and ecological implications. Despite considerable work devoted to understanding why females mate multiply, we currently lack convincing empirical evidence to explain the adaptive value of polyandry. Here we provide a direct test of the controversial idea that bet-hedging functions as a risk-spreading strategy that yields multi-generational fitness benefits to polyandrous females. Unfortunately, testing this hypothesis is far from trivial, and the empirical comparison of the across-generations fitness payoffs of a polyandrous (bet hedger) versus a monandrous (non-bet hedger) strategy has never been accomplished because of numerous experimental constraints presented by most ‘model’ species. In the present study we take advantage of the extraordinary tractability and versatility of a marine broadcast spawning invertebrate to overcome these challenges. We are able to simulate multi-generational (geometric mean) fitness among individual females assigned simultaneously to a polyandrous and monandrous mating strategy. Our approaches, which separate and account for the effects of sexual selection and pure bet-hedging scenarios, reveal that bet-hedging, in addition to sexual selection, can enhance evolutionary fitness in multiply-mated females. In addition to offering a tractable experimental approach for addressing bet-hedging theory, our study provides key insights into the evolutionary ecology of sexual interactions.