Publications filtered by: Sexual selection
Two hypotheses could explain the evolution of paternal care: caring males are more attractive to females and mate more often (sexual selection); males care when the benefits in terms of offspring survival exceed the costs (natural selection). To test these hypotheses we used Phyllomorpha laciniata: females can choose whether to lay eggs on plants or on conspecifics, and the extent to which males carry eggs varies between populations. Our results do not support the sexual selection hypothesis: females did not choose to mate with egg-carrying males in either natural populations or experimental contexts. We compared two populations that differ in the extent of male egg carrying and we show that in the population where male egg carrying was more prevalent, parasitism pressure was higher. Field experiments revealed that, in the population with high parasitism rate, egg mortality as a result of parasitoid attack was up to 10 times higher on plants than on conspecifics. Egg carrying is thus an effective strategy that protects eggs against parasitoids. We conclude that the main benefit derived by males from egg carrying is an increase in offspring survival, and that males are sensitive to interpopulation differences in egg mortality risks. Male care in this system has evolved despite intermediate levels of paternity certainty because the impact on offspring survival is high, and the costs in terms of loss of mating opportunities low. Thus, our findings support the natural selection hypothesis, although additional work on more populations is needed to verify this.
Spermatozoa exhibit taxonomically widespread patterns of divergent morphological evolution. However, the adaptive significance of variation in sperm morphology remains unclear. In this study we examine the role of natural variation in sperm length on fertilization success in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus. We conducted sperm competition trials between males that differed in the length of their sperm and determined the paternity of resulting offspring using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. We also quantified variation in the size and shape of the female’s sperm storage organ to determine whether female morphology influenced the competitiveness of different sperm morphologies. We found that fertilization success was biased toward males with relatively shorter sperm, but that selection on sperm length was dependent on female tract morphology; selection was directional for reduced sperm length across most of the spermathecal size range, but stabilizing in females with the smallest spermathecae. Our data provide empirical support for the theory that sperm competition should favor the evolution of numerous tiny sperm. Moreover, because sperm length is both heritable and genetically correlated with condition, our results are consistent with a process by which females can accrue genetic benefits for their offspring from the incitement of sperm competition and/or cryptic female choice, as proposed by the “sexy sperm” and “good sperm” models for the evolution of polyandry.
Female promiscuity often results in the ejaculates of different males competing to fertilize a female's ova. Experimental studies in insects have shown how sperm competition can be a potent selective force acting on an array of male reproductive traits, including features of the ejaculate such as sperm numbers or sperm size. However, experimental analysis of the role of sperm quality in determining paternity in insects has been neglected, despite the fact that sperm quality has been shown to influence the outcome of sperm competition in vertebrates. A recent comparative analysis found that males of polyandrous insect species show a higher proportion of live sperm in their stores, suggesting that sperm competition has shaped the quality of insect sperm. Here we test the hypothesis that sperm viability influences paternity at the within-species level. We use the cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus to conduct sperm competition trials involving pre-screened males that differ in the viability of their sperm. We find that paternity success is determined by the proportion of live sperm in a male's ejaculate. Furthermore, we were able to predict the patterns of paternity observed on the basis of the males' relative representation of viable sperm in the female's sperm storage organ. Our findings provide the first experimental evidence for the theory that sperm competition selects for higher sperm quality in insects, and indicate that between-male variation in sperm quality needs to be considered in theoretical and experimental studies of insect sperm competition.
1. The evolution of parental care and intraspecific parasitism involve conflicts of interest between mothers and other potential care givers who contribute to enhance offspring survival. In the golden egg bug, Phyllomorpha laciniata Villers (Heteroptera: Coreidae), females lay eggs on conspecifics and on plants. The adaptive significance of egg carrying in this species has been the subject of some controversy, which can only be resolved by determining the genetic relationship between the eggs and the adult who carries them. This study examined whether male acceptance of true genetic offspring occurs with a higher frequency than that expected from random oviposition on conspecifics. 2. Paternity analysis, using Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) markers, was conducted on eggs carried by males housed with field-mated females. 3. Out of the total number of eggs sired by males in the experimental groups, the proportion of eggs carried by males that were their true genetic offspring was 30.8%. 4. Monte Carlo methods show that the probability of a male accepting an egg that is his true genetic offspring is higher than expected if females dumped eggs on males at random. 5. These results suggest that paternal care plays an important role in the maintenance of male egg carrying in this species. In addition, the methodology developed may become useful in determining true genetic parents in other species in which neither the father nor the mother can be determined by observational methods.