The effect of size and sex ratio experiences on reproductive competition in Nicrophorus vespilloides burying beetles in the wild.
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Wiley via the DOI in this record.
Male parents face a choice: should they invest more in caring for offspring or in attempting to mate with other females? The most profitable course depends on the intensity of competition for mates, which is likely to vary with the population sex ratio. However, the balance of pay-offs may vary among individual males depending on their competitive prowess or attractiveness. We tested the prediction that sex ratio and size of the resource holding male provide cues regarding the level of mating competition prior to breeding and therefore influence the duration of a male's biparental caring in association with a female. Male burying beetles, Nicrophorus vespilloides were reared, post-eclosion, in groups that differed in sex ratio. Experimental males were subsequently translocated to the wild, provided with a breeding resource (carcass) and filmed. We found no evidence that sex ratio cues prior to breeding affected future parental care behaviour but males that experienced male-biased sex ratios took longer to attract wild mating partners. Smaller males attracted a higher proportion of females than did larger males, securing significantly more monogamous breeding associations as a result. Smaller males thus avoided competitive male-male encounters more often than larger males. This has potential benefits for their female partners who avoid both intrasexual competition and direct costs of higher mating frequency associated with competing males.
Natural Environment Research Council. NE/1528326/1, NE/1025468/1
This is an open access article.
Vol. 29, Iss. 3, March 2016, pp. 541 - 550
Place of publication