Polyandry and fitness in female horned flour beetles, Gnatocerus cornutus
Animal Behaviour, 11–16 (2015)
Although polyandry is common, it is often unclear why females mate with multiple males, because although polyandry may provide females with direct or indirect fitness benefits, it can also be costly. Our understanding of polyandry is also restricted by the relative paucity of studies that disentangle the fitness effects of mating more than once with a single male and mating with multiple males. Here we investigated potential benefits and costs of polyandry in the horned beetle, Gnatocerus cornutus, while controlling for the number of matings. We found that female life span was independent of mating frequency, indicating that mating itself is not very costly. However, females that mated more than once laid more eggs and had greater lifetime reproductive success than singly mated females. Because the magnitude of these effects was similar in monandrous and polyandrous females, this improved fertility was due to multiple mating itself, rather than mating with multiple males. However, although polyandrous females produced more attractive sons, these males tended to have smaller mandibles and so may fare less well in male–male competition. These results indicate that polyandry is relatively cost free, at least in the laboratory, and has direct and indirect benefits to female fitness. However, because the attractive sons produced by polyandrous females may fight less well, the indirect benefits of polyandry will depend on the intensity of male–male competition and how free females are to exert mate choice. Where competition between males is intense, polyandry benefits via son attractiveness may be reduced and perhaps even carry costs to female fitness.
Keywords: Coleoptera; female choice; Fisherian process; good genes; Insecta; monandry; polyandry; sexual selection