Plastic male mating behavior evolves in response to the competitive environment

Alice A. Dore, Wayne G. Rostant, Amanda Bretman, Tracey Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Male reproductive phenotypes can evolve in response to the social and sexual environment. The expression of many such phenotypes may also be plastic within an individual's lifetime. For example, male Drosophila melanogaster show significantly extended mating duration following a period of exposure to conspecific male rivals. The costs and benefits of reproductive investment, and plasticity itself, can be shaped by the prevailing sociosexual environment and by resource availability. We investigated these ideas using experimental evolution lines of D. melanogaster evolving under three fixed sex ratios (high, medium, and low male-male competition) on either rich or poor adult diets. We found that males evolving in high-competition environments evolved longer mating durations overall. In addition, these males expressed a novel type of plastic behavioral response following exposure to rival males: they both significantly reduced and showed altered courtship delivery, and exhibited significantly longer mating latencies. Plasticity in male mating duration in response to rivals was maintained in all of the lines, suggesting that the costs of plasticity were minimal. None of the evolutionary responses tested were consistently affected by dietary resource regimes. Collectively, the results show that fixed behavioral changes and new augmentations to the repertoire of reproductive behaviors can evolve rapidly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-115
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Early online date26 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Courtship
  • experimental evolution
  • mating duration
  • sex ratio
  • sexual selection

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