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Mate choice and the operational sex ratio: an experimental test with robotic crabs


Hayes, Catherine L; Callander, Sophia; Booksmythe, Isobel; Jennions, Michael D; Backwell, Patricia R.Y (2016). Mate choice and the operational sex ratio: an experimental test with robotic crabs. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 29(7):1455-1461.

Abstract

The operational sex ratio (OSR: sexually active males: receptive females) predicts the intensity of competition for mates. It is less clear, however, under what circumstances, the OSR predicts the strength of sexual selection – that is, the extent to which variation in mating success is attributable to traits that increase the bearer's attractiveness and/or fighting ability. To establish causality, experiments that manipulate the OSR are required. Furthermore, if it is possible to control for any OSR-dependent changes in the chosen sex (e.g. changes in male courtship), we can directly test whether the OSR affects the behaviour of the choosing sex (e.g. female choice decisions). We conducted female mate choice experiments in the field using robotic models of male fiddler crabs (Uca mjoebergi). We used a novel design with two females tested sequentially per trial. As in nature, the choice of the first female to mate therefore affected the mates available to the next female. In general, we detected significant sexual selection due to female choice for ‘males’ with larger claws. Importantly, the strength of sexual selection did not vary across five different OSR/density treatments. However, as the OSR decreased (hence the number of available males declined), females chose the ‘males’ with the largest claws available significantly more often than expected by chance. Possible reasons for this mismatch between the expected and observed effects of the OSR on the strength of sexual selection are discussed.

Abstract

The operational sex ratio (OSR: sexually active males: receptive females) predicts the intensity of competition for mates. It is less clear, however, under what circumstances, the OSR predicts the strength of sexual selection – that is, the extent to which variation in mating success is attributable to traits that increase the bearer's attractiveness and/or fighting ability. To establish causality, experiments that manipulate the OSR are required. Furthermore, if it is possible to control for any OSR-dependent changes in the chosen sex (e.g. changes in male courtship), we can directly test whether the OSR affects the behaviour of the choosing sex (e.g. female choice decisions). We conducted female mate choice experiments in the field using robotic models of male fiddler crabs (Uca mjoebergi). We used a novel design with two females tested sequentially per trial. As in nature, the choice of the first female to mate therefore affected the mates available to the next female. In general, we detected significant sexual selection due to female choice for ‘males’ with larger claws. Importantly, the strength of sexual selection did not vary across five different OSR/density treatments. However, as the OSR decreased (hence the number of available males declined), females chose the ‘males’ with the largest claws available significantly more often than expected by chance. Possible reasons for this mismatch between the expected and observed effects of the OSR on the strength of sexual selection are discussed.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Density; female choice; mate sampling; mating preferences
Language:English
Date:18 April 2016
Deposited On:31 May 2016 17:08
Last Modified:12 Jul 2016 01:04
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:1010-061X
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.12884
PubMed ID:27087241

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