Mate quality and the temporal dynamics of breeding in a sex-role-reversed pipefish, S. typhle
The spatiotemporal dynamics of receptivity and breeding date, coupled with individual-level quality and attractiveness, are centrally important to mating system dynamics. These topics have been investigated in some detail in birds, but much less work has been devoted to other taxonomic groups, and almost no work has addressed spatiotemporal factors and individual quality in sex-role-reversed taxa. The broad-nosed pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, provides an excellent opportunity to investigate these ideas in a sex-role-reversed fish. Here, we addressed three questions related to mating dynamics in S. typhle: (1) Do higher-quality males arrive earlier on the breeding grounds and mate first? (2) Are early-breeding males in better condition than later-breeding males? And (3) do mating events involving higher-quality males produce better clutches than mating events involving lower-quality males? We collected data from a field study and a laboratory breeding experiment to address our hypotheses. Our results show that larger males mate earlier than smaller males and that pregnant males have higher measures of condition compared to non-pregnant males. Moreover, our laboratory results demonstrate that pairings between larger males and preferred females yielded more offspring than pairings involving smaller males. In summary, the spatiotemporal dynamics of S. typhle breeding patterns, combined with variation in individual quality, play an important role in shaping mating systems and should be incorporated in future analyses of mating behavior and sexual selection in this interesting sex-role-reversed pipefish.
The breeding patterns of a species can fluctuate over time due to a number of factors, one of which is individual quality. Although the effects of both the timing of reproduction and female quality on mating systems have been studied in some species, they have been investigated primarily in isolation. Here, we demonstrate that individual quality and the timing of reproduction interact to affect reproductive success in a wild population of sex-role-reversed fish.