A link between heritable parasite resistance and mate choice in dung beetles

Bruno A. Buzatto, Janne S. Kotiaho, Larissa A.F. Assis, Leigh W. Simmons

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7 Citations (Web of Science)


Parasites play a central role in the adaptiveness of sexual reproduction. Sexual selection theory suggests a role for parasite resistance in the context of mate choice, but the evidence is mixed. The parasite-mediated sexual selection (PMSS) hypothesis derives a number of predictions, among which that resistance to parasites is heritable, and that female choice favors parasite resistance genes in males. Here, we tested the PMSS hypothesis using the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus, a species that can be heavily parasitized by Macrocheles merdarius mites, which are known to affect adult survival. We investigated the heritability of resistance to M. merdarius, as well as whether female O. taurus impose a mating bias against males susceptible to mite infestation. Female choice for parasite resistance is difficult to disentangle from the possibility that females are simply choosing less parasitized males due to naturally selected benefits of avoiding contracting those parasites. This is especially likely for ectoparasites, such as mites. We tackled this problem by performing a mate choice trial first, and then measuring a male's resistance to mite infestation. Resistance to mite infestation exhibited significant levels of additive genetic variance. Although we found no relationship between mating success and parasite resistance, males with greater resistance to infestation mated for longer. If females control copula duration, given that short copulations often result in mating failure, female choice could act on parasite resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1382-1387
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2019


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