No evidence for female mate choice based on genetic similarity in the túngara frog Physalaemus pustulosus
In most sexually reproducing animals, the behavior of one or both sexes during courtship critically influences the success at mating of the opposite sex. This behavior is often interpreted as “mate choice,” and there is great interest in why such choices are exercised. The explanation for the evolution of mate choice that has received the most attention and generated the most controversy is based on assumed genetic effects. In this study, we investigated whether female túngara frogs, which choose mates based on acoustic cues, have a preference for genetically less related males. Specifically, we determine if there is disassortive mating based on microsatellite markers, if there is information in the advertisement call that could be used to assess genetic similarity, and if females exhibit acoustic-based mating preferences that would promote choice for genetic diversity. Using seven microsatellite markers, we found no correlation of male call similarity and male genetic relatedness. Female choice experiments showed no female preference for calls of less related males, and there was no evidence for inbreeding avoidance in the field. Our results do not support the hypothesis of mate choice based on information about genetic relatedness conveyed by acoustic signals in túngara frogs.
KeywordsAnimal communication Mate choice Relatedness Microsatellite marker Sexual selection
We wish to thank Autoridad National del Ambiente of the Republic of Panama and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) for research and export permits. STRI provided invaluable logistic support. We are especially indebted to H. Pröhl, who developed the microsatellite primers used in this study. The critical comments of T. Juenger and B. Waldman greatly improved the manuscript. This work was supported by the German Science Foundation (DFG) LA 1382/2-1 (KPL), by National Science Foundation (NSF) grants IBN-0078184 to M.J.R., D. Cannatella, and W. Wilczynski, and IBN-9816564 to M.J.R., and by an NSF-CAREER award DEB-9983879 to U.G.M. The research presented complies with the current laws of the countries in which it was performed.
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