Aggressive mating as a tragedy of the commons in the water strider Aquarius remigis

  • Omar Tonsi EldakarEmail author
  • Michael J. Dlugos
  • R. Stimson Wilcox
  • David Sloan Wilson
Original Paper


The tragedy of the commons usually refers to the overexploitation of resources such as food or water. Here, we show in a laboratory study that competition among males for females can also result in a tragedy of the commons’ situation. Male water striders (Aquarius remigis) vary widely in their aggressiveness toward pursuing females. The most aggressive males prevent females from feeding and cause them to leave the water surface, where they are unavailable to all males. Groups of nonaggressive males are collectively three times more fit than groups of hyperaggressive males, but hyperaggressive males are more successful than nonaggressive males within mixed groups. This is the classic tragedy of the commons’ situation, and it is likely to occur in many species that exhibit sexual conflict. We have also shown that individual differences in male aggression are stable across time and are not influenced by food or light regime, although all individuals become nonaggressive in the presence of fish predators.


Tragedy of the commons Water strider Sexual conflict Alternative mating strategies Altruism Selfish 



We thank D. J. Fairbairn, W. V. Blanckenhorn, J. Pepper, A. B. Clark, A. Kropp, R. Gardner and members of EvoS, Binghamton University’s Evolutionary Studies Program, for the helpful discussion. Funding was provided from the E. N. Huyck Preserve and the National Science Foundation Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Omar Tonsi Eldakar
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael J. Dlugos
    • 1
  • R. Stimson Wilcox
    • 1
  • David Sloan Wilson
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Insect ScienceUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA

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