Both male and female identity influence variation in male signaling effort

School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia.
BMC Evolutionary Biology (Impact Factor: 3.37). 08/2011; 11(1):233. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-11-233
Source: PubMed


Male sexual displays play an important role in sexual selection by affecting reproductive success. However, for such displays to be useful for female mate choice, courtship should vary more among than within individual males. In this regard, a potentially important source of within male variation is adjustment of male courtship effort in response to female traits. Accordingly, we set out to dissect sources of variation in male courtship effort in a fish, the desert goby (Chlamydogobius eremius). We did so by designing an experiment that allowed simultaneous estimation of within and between male variation in courtship, while also assessing the importance of the males and females as sources of courtship variation.
Although males adjusted their courtship depending on the identity of the female (a potentially important source of within-male variation), among-male differences were considerably greater. In addition, male courtship effort towards a pair of females was highly repeatable over a short time frame.
Despite the plasticity in male courtship effort, courtship displays had the potential to reliably convey information about the male to mate-searching females. Our experiment therefore underscores the importance of addressing the different sources contributing to variation in the expression of sexually-selected traits.

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    • "The results indicate that males had a nonsignificant tendency to invest more in courting large, presumably more fecund, females. This result is in line with earlier findings showing that desert goby males strategically adjust courtship towards larger females[37,39], but only when females are encountered simultaneously or in quick succession, i.e., the perceived female encounter rate is high[38]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Social and environmental factors can profoundly impact an individual’s investment of resources into different components of reproduction. Such allocation trade-offs are expected to be amplified under challenging environmental conditions. To test these predictions, we used a desert-dwelling fish, the desert goby, Chlamydogobius eremius, to experimentally investigate the effects of prior social experience (with either a male or a female) on male investment in courtship and aggression under physiologically benign and challenging conditions (i.e., low versus high salinity). Results: We found that males maintained a higher level of aggression towards a rival after a recent encounter with a female, compared to an encounter with a male, under low (but not high) salinity. In contrast, male investment in courtship behaviour was unaffected by either salinity or social experience. Conclusion: Together, our results suggest that male investment in aggression and courtship displays can differ in their sensitivity to environmental conditions and that not all reproductive behaviours are similarly influenced by the same environmental context.
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    • "The results also give no clear support for the idea that sand goby males would adjust their courtship effort according to female quality or identity. This, as well, is relevant because extensive within-male plasticity in courtship effort could compromise the information value of the courtship signal and decrease the scope for sexual selection (Griffith & Sheldon 2001; Wong & Candolin 2005; Lehtonen et al. 2011). The role of female identity, however, may be more important under conditions of high female encounter rate (Svensson et al. 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Male courtship behaviour is known to correlate with body condition and other aspects of male phenotypic or genetic quality. Females often prefer males that express the most intense or elaborate displays, although recent findings indicate that this should not always be the case; males may be strategic in their courtship displays, signal dishonestly or deplete their energy reserves with intense courting. To study reliability of courtship effort as a mate choice signal, I assessed multiple aspects of male courtship using wild-caught sand gobies, Pomatoschistus minutus, in a controlled laboratory setting. I found consistent and repeatable between-male differences in courtship. However, females did not show a significant preference for males that courted intensively. Furthermore, other assessed male traits with a previously demonstrated role in sexual selection were not correlated with courtship effort. This indicates that courtship displays did not reliably signal male quality. The results also suggest that even when courtship has potential to convey useful information, females may have to trade between courtship and other cues they use in mate choice. Hence, to gain a more complete understanding of the selection regime acting on male courtship behaviour, and female preference for it, one should simultaneously investigate multiple factors that can affect female mating behaviour.
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    ABSTRACT: Male-male conflict is common among animals, but questions remain as to when, how and by whom aggression should be initiated. Factors that affect agonistic strategies include residency, the value of the contested resource and the fighting ability of the two contestants. We quantified initiation of aggression in a fish, the desert goby, Chlamydogobius eremius, by exposing nest-holding males to a male intruder. The perceived value of the resource (the nest) was manipulated by exposing half of the residents to sexually receptive females for two days before the trial. Resident male aggression, however, was unaffected by perceived mating opportunities. It was also unaffected by the absolute and relative size of the intruder. Instead resident aggression was negatively related to resident male size. In particular, smaller residents attacked sooner and with greater intensity compared to larger residents. These results suggest that resident desert goby males used set, rather than conditional, strategies for initiating aggression. If intruders are more likely to flee than retaliate, small males may benefit from attacking intruders before these have had an opportunity to assess the resident and/or the resource.
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