The effect of perceived female parasite load on post-copulatory male choice in a sex-role-reversed pipefish
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The last several decades of research in behavioral ecology have resulted in a deeper appreciation of post-mating processes and sexual conflict in sexual selection. One of the most controversial aspects of sexual selection is cryptic mate choice. Here, we take advantage of male pregnancy in a sex-role-reversed pipefish (Syngnathus typhle) to quantify cryptic choice based on perceived parasite load and other sources of variance in female fitness. Studies have shown that S. typhle males preferentially mate with females with lower parasite loads and that a male’s perception of female parasite load can be altered by tattooing females. We manipulated the apparent parasite load of females in controlled mating experiments to test the hypothesis that post-copulatory sexual selection is dependent on a male’s perception of female parasite load in pipefish. Our results provided no evidence for cryptic male choice based on perceived female parasite load. However, we found evidence that eggs from larger females were more likely to result in viable offspring than eggs from smaller females and that the first female to mate with a male transferred more eggs per copulation on average. Overall, our results show that potential for post-copulatory sexual selection does exist in pipefish, but the male’s perception of female parasite load does not play a major role in this process.
KeywordsCryptic choice Microsatellites Pipefish Post-copulatory behavior Sexual selection Sperm competition
We thank S. Rintakoski and M. Raimondo for help in the field and J. Andersson for help with tattoo techniques and equipment. A. Billing, S. Robinson-Wolrath, and G. Rosenqvist provided help with the field and husbandry aspects of this project. Also, we thank Kristineberg Marine Research Station and Klubban Research Station for the use of their facilities. Inez Johansson Foundation (IA), Swedish Research Council (AB and CK), and the National Science Foundation (AGJ) provided funding for this work. This research was approved by Texas A&M University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (AUP2004-204).
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