Evolutionary Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 62–70 | Cite as

Experimental Removal of Sexual Selection Reveals Adaptations to Polyandry in Both Sexes

  • Marco Demont
  • Vera M. Grazer
  • Łukasz Michalczyk
  • Anna L. Millard
  • Sonja H. Sbilordo
  • Brent C. Emerson
  • Matthew J. G. Gage
  • Oliver Y. Martin
Research Article


Polyandrous mating is extremely common, yet for many species the evolutionary significance is not fully resolved. In order to understand the evolution of mating systems, it is crucial that we investigate the adaptive consequences across many facets of reproduction. We performed experimental evolution with the naturally polygamous flour beetle Tribolium castaneum subjected to either polyandry or enforced monogamy, creating contrasting selection regimes associated with the presence or absence of sexual selection. After 36 generations, we investigated male and female adaptations by mating beetles with an unselected tester strain to exclude potential effects of male–female coevolution. Reproductive success of focal monogamous and polyandrous beetles from each sex was assessed in separate single male and multiple male experiments emulating the different selection backgrounds. Males and females from the polyandrous regime had more offspring in the experiments with multiple males present than monogamous counterparts. However, in single male experiments, neither females nor males differed between selection regimes. Subsequent mating trials with multiple males suggested that adaptations to polyandry in both sexes provide benefits when choice and competition were allowed to take place. Polyandrous females delayed the first copulation when given a choice of males and polyandrous males were quicker to achieve copulation when facing competition. In conclusion, we show that the expected benefits of evolutionary adaptation to polyandry in T. castaneum depended on the availability of multiple mates. This context-dependent effect, which concerned both sexes, highlights the importance of realistic competition and choice experiments.


Experimental evolution Mating system Monogamy Multiple mating Reproductive success Tribolium castaneum 



We thank the Swiss National Science Foundation (Ambizione Grants PZ00P3_121777 and PZ00P3-137514 and standard research Grant 31003A_125144/1 to OYM), ETH Zurich, NERC and the University of East Anglia for support. We further thank Helen Alexander and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Finally, we are very grateful to Richard Beeman (USDA) for providing the beetle stock originally used to generate the selection lines assessed here.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Demont
    • 1
  • Vera M. Grazer
    • 1
  • Łukasz Michalczyk
    • 3
  • Anna L. Millard
    • 2
  • Sonja H. Sbilordo
    • 1
  • Brent C. Emerson
    • 2
    • 4
  • Matthew J. G. Gage
    • 2
  • Oliver Y. Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Experimental Ecology, Institute of Integrative Biology (IBZ)ETH ZürichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  3. 3.Department of Entomology, Institute of ZoologyJagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland
  4. 4.Island Ecology and Evolution Research Group (IPNA-CSIC)La LagunaSpain

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