Do males that experience weapon damage have greater reproductive potential than intact males in polygynous scenarios?

Abstract

Males with damaged weapons often lose intraspecific contests; however, recent research suggests these males may use post-copulatory means to mitigate reduced reproduction. When intraspecific competition is absent, can weapon-damaged males produce more offspring in multi-mating scenarios relative to intact males? We examined the reproductive potential of weapon-damaged males in Narnia femorata (Hemiptera: Coreidae), a species that exhibits resource defense polygyny and is known to increase testes size when developmental weapon damage occurs. We induced weapon damage during development. Upon sexual maturation, we provided intact and weapon-damaged males with access to four unmated females successively and without any competitors. The mating partners of weapon-damaged males were more likely to have their eggs hatch. Furthermore, weapon-damaged males produced more offspring, though only with larger females. These results suggest that weapon-damaged males have enhanced fertilization outcomes, potentially minimizing reproductive costs of weapon damage.

Significance statement

Weapon damage is common in nature and can reduce pre-copulatory success. However, few studies have examined the reproductive consequences of weapon damage. We tested the hypothesis that weapon-damaged males can compensate for a pre-copulatory disadvantage through increased investment in traits that improve post-copulatory fertilization success. To examine the reproductive potential of weapon-damaged males, we provided males with four females in succession, then measured reproductive outcomes. We found that mating partners of weapon-damaged males were more likely to have their eggs hatch relative to the mating partners of intact males. Furthermore, we found that weapon-damaged males produced a larger number of offspring than intact males. This evidence reveals that weapon damage allows males to boost reproductive outcomes in non-competitive contexts.

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Data availability

Our data file used for analyses is included as an electronic file in the Supplementary Material.

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R code is included as an electronic file in the Supplementary Material.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank undergraduate research assistants including Bryanna Sharot, Meredith Lilley, Amberlika Guruvadoo, Daniela Gomez, and Stella Fedele for their dedication and work on this project. We would also like to thank the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center for allowing us to collect on their 72,000-acre training site (Florida Army and National Guard). Thank you to the Undergraduate Scholars Program at the University of Florida for providing support to SH Lenga. Finally, we thank the entire Miller Lab of Evolutionary Ecology, Z Emberts, TM Palmer, C St. Mary, PJ Moore, C Sergi, and RL Rodríguez for providing comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Funding

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation (IOS-1553100) and the UF Agricultural Experiment Station, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the US Department of Agriculture (HATCH under FLA-ENY-005691).

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LAC and CWM conceived, designed, and analyzed the data for the study. LAC and SHL performed the experiment and collected the data. All three authors wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lauren A. Cirino.

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Cirino, L.A., Lenga, S.H. & Miller, C.W. Do males that experience weapon damage have greater reproductive potential than intact males in polygynous scenarios?. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 75, 83 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-021-03019-y

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Keywords

  • Autotomy
  • Multiple mates
  • Trade-off
  • Sexual selection
  • Alternative reproductive tactic
  • Conditional strategy