, Volume 53, Issue 6, pp 341-349

Female choice in a promiscuous wild guinea pig, the yellow-toothed cavy (Galea musteloides)

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Promiscuity is traditionally considered to increase only male reproductive success but, more recently, female benefits are also assumed to be the driving force for promiscuous mating. The yellow-toothed cavy (Galea musteloides) is characterised by an extremely high degree of multiple paternity (>80%), and females have greater offspring viability after mating multiple males. However, so far it is not clear whether or not it is the female's decision that leads to mating with more than one male. To elucidate the female's role in bringing about promiscuity, female yellow-toothed cavies were given the choice between four different males each, in a mate-choice apparatus that simultaneously prevented monopolisation and harassment of the females by the males. In 10 of the 12 choice tests, mating occurred. Nine of these ten females actively sought copulations with more than one male, and their mating behaviour was displayed in a way that might have favoured the mixing of sperm. At the same time, they significantly preferred heavier and more frequently courting males. These results show that female yellow-toothed cavies are actively involved in mating with more than one male. Thus, the present study is the first to show that in a species in which females produce more viable offspring as a consequence of polyandrous mating, these females are indeed motivated to actively bring about promiscuity. Nevertheless, females are selective in the choice of their mates. Thus, both sperm competition and direct female choice seem to be important for the increased offspring viability due to promiscuous mating.

Communicated by S. Boinski