Sexual conflict, sexual selection and sperm competition in the spawning decisions of bitterling, Rhodeus sericeus
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Sexual selection may operate through either direct selection on preference genes or indirect genetic benefits. However, in many species both direct and indirect selection may operate and can influence female mate and oviposition choice. Adaptations by males for sperm competition can also affect female mate and oviposition choice and can lead to sexual conflict. We investigated the role of direct and indirect benefits and male adaptation to sperm competition for female oviposition decisions in the bitterling, Rhodeus sericeus, a freshwater fish that spawns on the gills of living unionid mussels. Field experiments showed that females chose mussels for spawning on the basis of the number of embryos already in mussels and the body size and/or extent of red coloration of the eyes of territorial males. There was also a significant interaction between these direct and indirect benefits of oviposition choice. Territorial male bitterling avoided leading females to mussels into which rivals had already released sperm. Males also increased their rate of sperm release into mussels in response to sperm release by sneaking males. We discuss the possibility that sexual conflict in oviposition choice occurs in this species.
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