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Body size preferences in the pot-bellied seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis: choosy males and indiscriminate females


Mattle, Beat; Wilson, Anthony B (2009). Body size preferences in the pot-bellied seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis: choosy males and indiscriminate females. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 63(10):1403-1410.

Abstract

Male seahorses (genus Hippocampus) provide all post-fertilization parental care, yet despite high levels of paternal investment, these species have long been thought to have conventional sex roles, with female mate choice and male–male competition. Recent studies of the potbellied seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis) have shown that sex-role reversal occurs in high-density female-biased populations, indicating that male mating preferences may lead to sexual selection on females in this species. Egg size, egg number, and offspring size all correlate positively with female body size in Hippocampus, and by choosing large mating partners, male seahorses may increase their reproductive success. While male brood size is also positively correlated with body size, small H. abdominalis males can carry exceptionally large broods, suggesting that the fecundity benefits of female preference for large partners may be limited. We investigated the importance of body size in reproductive decisions of H. abdominalis, presenting focal individuals of both sexes with potential mating partners of different sizes. Mating preferences were quantified in terms of time spent courting each potential partner. Male seahorses were highly active throughout the mate-choice trials and showed a clear behavioral preference for large partners, while females showed significantly lower levels of activity and equivocal mating preferences. The strong male preferences for large females demonstrated here suggest that sexual selection may act strongly on female body size in wild populations of H. abdominalis, consistent with predictions on the importance of female body size for reproductive output in this species.

Male seahorses (genus Hippocampus) provide all post-fertilization parental care, yet despite high levels of paternal investment, these species have long been thought to have conventional sex roles, with female mate choice and male–male competition. Recent studies of the potbellied seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis) have shown that sex-role reversal occurs in high-density female-biased populations, indicating that male mating preferences may lead to sexual selection on females in this species. Egg size, egg number, and offspring size all correlate positively with female body size in Hippocampus, and by choosing large mating partners, male seahorses may increase their reproductive success. While male brood size is also positively correlated with body size, small H. abdominalis males can carry exceptionally large broods, suggesting that the fecundity benefits of female preference for large partners may be limited. We investigated the importance of body size in reproductive decisions of H. abdominalis, presenting focal individuals of both sexes with potential mating partners of different sizes. Mating preferences were quantified in terms of time spent courting each potential partner. Male seahorses were highly active throughout the mate-choice trials and showed a clear behavioral preference for large partners, while females showed significantly lower levels of activity and equivocal mating preferences. The strong male preferences for large females demonstrated here suggest that sexual selection may act strongly on female body size in wild populations of H. abdominalis, consistent with predictions on the importance of female body size for reproductive output in this species.

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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)
Date:November 2009
Deposited On:16 Dec 2009 16:17
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:35
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0340-5443
Additional Information:The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-009-0804-8
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-24531

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