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 output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-70
Number of pages9
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Cite this