Publications filtered by: Sexual selection
Mating often bears large costs to females, especially in species with high levels of sexual conflict over mating rates. Given the direct costs to females associated with multiple mating, which include reductions in lifespan and lifetime reproductive success, past research focused on identifying potential indirect benefits (through increases in offspring fitness) that females may accrue. Far less attention has, however, been devoted to understanding how costs of sexual interactions to females may extend across generations. Hence, little is known about the transgenerational implications of variation in mating rates, or the net consequences of maternal sexual activities across generations. Using the seed beetle, Callosobruchus maculatus, a model system for the study of sexual conflict, we investigate the effects of mating with multiple males versus a single male, and tease apart effects due to sexual harassment and those due to mating per se, over three generations. A multigenerational analysis indicated that females that were exposed to ongoing sexual harassment and who also were permitted to mate with multiple males showed no difference in net fitness compared to females that mated just once without ongoing harassment. Intriguingly, however, females that were continually harassed, but permitted to mate just once, suffered a severe decline in net fitness compared to females that were singly (not harassed) or multiply mated (harassed, but potentially gaining benefits via mating with multiple males). Overall, the enhanced fitness in multiply mated compared to harassed females may indicate that multiple mating confers transgenerational benefits. These benefits may counteract, but do not exceed (i.e., we found no difference between singly and multiply mated females), the large transgenerational costs of harassment. Our study highlights the importance of examining transgenerational effects from an inclusive (looking at both indirect benefits but also costs) perspective, and the need to investigate transgenerational effects across several generations if we are to fully understand the consequences of sexual interactions, sexual conflict evolution, and the interplay of sexual conflict and multi-generational costs and benefits.
Sex ratio allocation has important fitness consequences, and theory predicts that parents should adjust offspring sex ratio in cases where the fitness returns of producing male and female offspring vary. The ability of fathers to bias offspring sex ratios has traditionally been dismissed given the expectation of an equal proportion of X- and Y-chromosome-bearing sperm (CBS) in ejaculates due to segregation of sex chromosomes at meiosis. This expectation has been recently refuted. Here we used Peromyscus leucopus to demonstrate that sex ratio is explained by an exclusive effect of the father, and suggest a likely mechanism by which male-driven sex-ratio bias is attained. We identified a male sperm morphological marker that is associated with the mechanism leading to sex ratio bias; differences among males in the sperm nucleus area (a proxy for the sex chromosome that the sperm contains) explain 22% variation in litter sex ratio. We further show the role played by the sperm nucleus area as a mediator in the relationship between individual genetic variation and sex-ratio bias. Fathers with high levels of genetic variation had ejaculates with a higher proportion of sperm with small nuclei area. This, in turn, led to siring a higher proportion of sons (25% increase in sons per 0.1 decrease in the inbreeding coefficient). Our results reveal a plausible mechanism underlying unexplored male-driven sex-ratio biases. We also discuss why this pattern of paternal bias can be adaptive. This research puts to rest the idea that father contribution to sex ratio variation should be disregarded in vertebrates, and will stimulate research on evolutionary constraints to sex ratios—for example, whether fathers and mothers have divergent, coinciding, or neutral sex allocation interests. Finally, these results offer a potential explanation for those intriguing cases in which there are sex ratio biases, such as in humans.
It is well known that sexual selection can target reproductive traits during successive pre- and post-mating episodes of selection. A key focus of recent studies has been to understand and quantify how these episodes of sexual selection interact to determine overall variance in reproductive success. In this paper we review empirical developments in this field but also highlight the considerable variability in patterns of pre- and post-mating sexual selection, attributable to variation in patterns of resource acquisition and allocation, ecological and social factors, genotype-by-environment interaction, and possible methodological factors that might obscure such patterns. Our aim is to highlight how (co)variances in pre- and post-mating sexually selected traits can be sensitive to changes in a range of ecological and environmental variables. We argue that failure to capture this variation when quantifying the opportunity for sexual selection may lead to erroneous conclusions about the strength, direction or form of sexual selection operating on pre- and post-mating traits. Overall, we advocate for approaches that combine measures of pre- and post-mating selection across contrasting environmental or ecological gradients to better understand the dynamics of sexual selection in polyandrous species. We also discuss some directions for future research in this area.
Recognition of the ubiquity of female multiple mating has evoked an important shift in sexual selection research, emphasising the adaptive nature of female mating strategies. While phenotypic changes in female mating traits have been previously studied, little is known about the genetic basis of female mating behaviour and its potential to respond to selection at different stages throughout an individual’s life. Using a large quantitative genetic breeding design, we observed lifetime female mating behaviour in Drosophila melanogaster to examine the effect of female age and mating history on three key mating traits: courtship latency, mating latency and copula duration. Courtship latency (time until males initiate courtship) decreased with the cumulative number of females’ previous matings. Mating latency (defined here as the time between the beginning of courtship and the start of copulation) increased with female age, and copula duration was found to decrease as females aged. We calculated quantitative genetic estimates for mating traits in virgin females and at the females’ third mating to examine changes in the evolutionary potential of mating traits. We found considerable additive genetic variation in courtship latency and mating latency measured in virgin females. Copula duration displayed no heritable variation among females across sire families, but male effects were consistent with the idea that this trait is under male control. Heritability estimates differed significantly from zero in virgin females for courtship latency and mating latency. Heritability estimates did not differ significantly from zero when females were mating for the third time. However, overlapping 84% confidence intervals between heritability estimates obtained from virgin and mated females suggest that female mating strategies may have the potential to respond to selection at these different life stages.
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.