Working with what you've got: unattractive males show greater mate-guarding effort in a duetting songbird.
ABSTRACT: When mates are limited, individuals should allocate resources to mating tactics that maximize fitness. In species with extra-pair paternity (EPP), males can invest in mate guarding, or, alternatively, in seeking EPP. Males should optimize fitness by adjusting investment according to their attractiveness to females, such that attractive males seek EPP, and unattractive males guard mates. This theory has received little empirical testing, leaving our understanding of the evolution of mating tactics incomplete; it is unclear how a male's relative attractiveness influences his tactics. We conducted observations and experiments on red-backed fairy-wrens (Malurus melanocephalus) to address this question. We found that older, more attractive (red-black) males sought EPP, whereas unattractive (brown) males invested in alternative tactics-physical and acoustic mate guarding. Younger red-black males used intermediate tactics. This suggests that males adopt mating tactics appropriate to their attributes. Males obtained similar reproductive success, suggesting these alternative tactics may maximize each male's paternity gain. Though it is likely that female choice also determines paternity, rather than just male tactics, we establish that the many interconnected components of a male's sexual phenotype influence the evolution of his decision-making rules, deepening our understanding of how mating tactics evolve under sexual selection.
Project description:Males from many species ensure paternity by preventing their mates from copulating with other males. One mate-guarding strategy involves marking females with anti-aphrodisiac pheromones (AAPs), which reduces the females' attractiveness and dissuades other males from courting. Since females benefit from polyandry, sexual conflict theory predicts that females should develop mechanisms to counteract AAPs to achieve additional copulations, but no such mechanisms have been documented. Here we show that during copulation Drosophila melanogaster males transfer two AAPs: cis-Vaccenyl Acetate (cVA) to the females' reproductive tract, and 7-Tricosene (7-T) to the females' cuticle. A few hours after copulation, females actively eject cVA from their reproductive tract, which results in increased attractiveness and re-mating. Although 7-T remains on those females, we show that it is the combination of the two chemicals that reduces attractiveness. To our knowledge, female AAP ejection provides the first example of a female mechanism that counter-acts chemical mate-guarding.
Project description:Passive mechanisms of mate guarding are used by males to promote sperm precedence with little cost, but these tactics can be disadvantageous for their mates and other males. Mated females of the plant bug <i>Lygus hesperus</i> are rendered temporarily unattractive by seminal fluids containing myristyl acetate and geranylgeranyl acetate. These antiaphrodisiac pheromones are gradually released from the female's gonopore, declining until they no longer suppress male courtship. Because starting quantities of these compounds can vary widely, the repellant signal becomes less reliable over time. Evidence was found of a complimentary mechanism that more accurately conveys female mating status. Once inside the female, geranylgeranyl acetate is progressively converted to geranylgeraniol then externalized. Geranylgeraniol counteracts the antiaphrodisiac effect despite having no inherent attractant properties of its own. This is the first evidence for such an anti-antiaphrodisiac pheromone, adding a new element to the communication mechanisms regulating reproductive behaviors.
Project description:In socially monogamous species, pair-bonded males often continue to provide care to all offspring in their nests despite some degree of paternity loss due to female extra-pair copulation. Previous theoretical models suggested that females can use their within-pair offspring as 'hostages' to blackmail their social mates, so that they continue to provide care to the brood at low levels of cuckoldry. These models, however, rely on the assumption of sufficiently accurate male detection of cuckoldry and the reduction of parental effort in case of suspicion. Therefore, they cannot explain the abundant cases where cuckolded males continue to provide extensive care to the brood. Here we use an analytical population genetics model and an individual-based simulation model to explore the coevolution of female fidelity and male help in populations with two genetically determined alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs): sneakers that achieve paternity solely via extra-pair copulations and bourgeois that form a mating pair and spend some efforts in brood care. We show that when the efficiency of mate guarding is intermediate, the bourgeois males can evolve to 'specialize' in providing care by spending more than 90% of time in helping their females while guarding them as much as possible, despite frequent cuckoldry by the sneakers. We also show that when sneakers have tactic-specific adaptations and thus are more competitive than the bourgeois in gaining extra-pair fertilizations, the frequency of sneakers and the degrees of female fidelity and male help can fluctuate in evolutionary cycles. Our theoretical predictions highlight the need for further empirical tests in species with ARTs.
Project description:Colonial waterbirds such as herons, egrets and spoonbills exhibit ecological characteristics that could have promoted the evolution of conspecific brood parasitism and extra-pair copulation. However, an adequate characterization of the genetic mating systems of this avian group has been hindered by the lack of samples of elusive candidate parents which precluded conducting conventional parentage allocation tests. Here, we investigate the genetic mating system of the invasive cattle egret using hematophagous insects contained in fake eggs to collect blood from incubating adults in a wild breeding colony. We tested a protocol with a previously unused Neotropical Triatominae, Panstrongylus megistus, obtained blood samples from males and females in 31 nests built on trees, drew blood from 89 nestlings at those nests, and genotyped all samples at 14 microsatellite loci, including six new species-specific loci. We comparatively addressed the performance of parentage allocation versus kinship classification of nestlings to infer the genetic mating system of cattle egrets. In line with previous behavioral observations, we found evidence in support of a non-monogamous genetic mating system, including extra-pair paternity (EPP) and conspecific brood parasitism (CBP). Parentage allocation tests detected a higher percentage of nests with alternative reproductive tactics (EPP: 61.7%; CBP: 64.5%) than the kinship classification method (EPP: 50.0%; CBP: 43.3%). Overall, these results indicate that rates of alternative reproductive tactics inferred in the absence of parental genetic information could be underestimated and should be interpreted with caution. This study highlights the importance of incorporating samples from candidate parents to adequately determine the genetic mating system of a species. We expand knowledge on the reproductive tactics of colonial waterbirds, contributing novel data on the genetic mating system of the cattle egret, valuable for the design of management strategies for this invasive bird.
Project description:Evolutionary models of sex ratio adjustment applied to mammals have ignored that females may gain indirect genetic benefits from their mates. The differential allocation hypothesis (DAH) predicts that females bias the sex ratio of their offspring towards (more costly) males when breeding with an attractive male. We manipulated the number of available males during rut in a polygynous ungulate species, the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), and found that a doubling of average male mass (and thus male attractiveness) in the breeding herd increased the proportion of male offspring from approximately 40 to 60%. Paternity analysis revealed indeed that males of high phenotypic quality sired more males, consistent with the DAH. This insight has consequences for proper management of large mammal populations. Our study suggests that harvesting, by generating a high proportion of young, small and unattractive mates, affects the secondary sex ratio due to differential allocation effects in females. Sustainable management needs to consider not only the direct demographic changes due to harvest mortality and selection, but also the components related to behavioural ecology and opportunities for female choice.
Project description:To increase individual male fitness, males of various species remain near a (potential) mating partner and repel their rivals (mate-guarding). Mate-guarding is assumed to be mediated by two different types of motivation: sexual motivation toward the opposite sex and competitive motivation toward the same sex. The genetic/molecular mechanisms underlying how mate presence affects male competitive motivation in a triadic relationship has remained largely unknown. Here we showed that male medaka fish prominently exhibit mate-guarding behavior. The presence of a female robustly triggers male-male competition for the female in a triadic relationship (2 males and 1 female). The male-male competition resulted in one male occupying a dominant position near the female while interfering with the other male's approach of the female. Paternity testing revealed that the dominant male had a significantly higher mating success rate than the other male in a triadic relationship. We next generated medaka mutants of arginine-vasotocin (avt) and its receptors (V1a1, V1a2) and revealed that two genes, avt and V1a2, are required for normal mate-guarding behavior. In addition, behavioral analysis of courtship behaviors in a dyadic relationship and aggressive behaviors within a male group revealed that avt mutant males displayed decreased sexual motivation but showed normal aggression. In contrast, heterozygote V1a2 mutant males displayed decreased aggression, but normal mate-guarding and courtship behavior. Thus, impaired mate-guarding in avt and V1a2 homozygote mutants may be due to the loss of sexual motivation toward the opposite sex, and not to the loss of competitive motivation toward rival males. The different behavioral phenotypes between avt, V1a2 heterozygote, and V1a2 homozygote mutants suggest that there are redundant systems to activate V1a2 and that endogenous ligands activating the receptor may differ according to the social context.
Project description:Females of many socially monogamous species accept or even actively seek copulations outside the social pair bond. As females cannot increase the number of offspring with promiscuous behaviour, the question arises why they engage in extra-pair mating. We used microsatellite data to determine paternity, heterozygosity and genetic relatedness in the reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus), a species with high levels of extra-pair paternity (EPP). We found that extra-pair young (EPY) were more heterozygous than within-pair young (WPY). The high heterozygosity of the EPY resulted from a low genetic similarity between females and their extra-pair mates. EPY were heavier and larger when compared with their maternal half-siblings shortly before they left the nest. Recapture data indicated a higher fledgling survival of EPY compared with WPY. Our data suggest that reed bunting females increase the viability of their offspring and thus fitness through extra-pair mating with genetically dissimilar males.
Project description:Animals use multiple signals to attract mates, including elaborate song, brightly coloured ornaments and physical displays. Female birds often prefer both elaborate male song and intense carotenoid-based plumage coloration. This could lead less visually ornamented males to increase song production to maximize their attractiveness to females. We tested this possibility in the highly social and non-territorial house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus), in which females discriminate among males based on both song and on the intensity of red carotenoid-based plumage coloration. We manipulated male plumage coloration through carotenoid supplementation during moult, so that males were either red or yellow. Males were then housed under three social environments: (i) all red birds, (ii) all yellow birds or (iii) a mixture of red/yellow birds. We recorded song after presentation of a female. Red males produced more song than yellow males. But when yellow males were housed with red conspecifics, they produced more song relative to yellow males housed with equally unattractive yellow males. This study provides novel evidence that a male's plumage coloration and the plumage colour of his social competitors influence investment in song.
Project description:In socially monogamous species, extra-pair paternity can increase the variance in reproductive success and thereby the potential for sexual selection on male ornaments. We studied whether male secondary sexual ornaments are selected through within- and/or extra-pair reproductive success in the blue tit (Parus caeruleus). Male blue tits display a bright blue crown plumage, which reflects substantially in the ultraviolet (UV) and previously has been indicated to be an important sexual signal. We show that males with a more UV-shifted crown hue were less cuckolded, which probably resulted from female preference for more ornamented mates. By contrast, however, older males and males with a less UV-shifted hue sired more extra-pair young. This probably did not reflect direct female preference, since cuckolders were not less UV-ornamented than the males they cuckolded. Alternatively, a trade-off between UV ornamentation and other traits that enhance extra-pair success could explain this pattern. Our results might reflect two alternative male mating tactics, where more UV-ornamented males maximize within-pair success and less UV-ornamented males maximize extra-pair success. Since crown colour was selected in opposite directions by within-pair and extra-pair paternity, directional selection through extra-pair matings seemed weak, at least in this population and breeding season. Reduced intensity of sexual selection due to alternative mating tactics constitutes a potential mechanism maintaining additive genetic variance of male ornaments.
Project description:Polygynous mating systems with group fidelity are a common animal organization, typically consisting of multiple females in a mated group with a single male for an extended period (sometimes referred to as harem polygyny). Single-male polygyny with reproductive fidelity occurs in invertebrates, bony fishes, and some tetrapods, such as lizards, mammals, and birds. In amphibians, reproductive fidelity in polygynous groups is not fully demonstrated. Combining data on larval development, molecular paternity assignment, and in situ behavioral observations, we reveal high fidelity during a prolonged breeding season in a Neotropical polygynous frog. Males dominate scarce breeding sites, guarding offspring, and mating exclusively with multiple females that exhibit dominance rank. This system likely evolved in response to intense competition for breeding sites and intrasexual competition for mates.