Male responses to sperm competition when rivals vary in number and familiarity

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Abstract

Males of many species adjust their reproductive investment to the number of rivals present simultaneously. However, few studies have investigated whether males sum previous encounters with rivals, and the total level of competition has never been explicitly separated from social familiarity. Social familiarity can be an important component of kin recognition and has been suggested as a cue that males use to avoid harming females when competing with relatives. Previous work has succeeded in independently manipulating social familiarity and relatedness among rivals, but experimental manipulations of familiarity are confounded with manipulations of the total number of rivals that males encounter. Using the seed beetle Callosobruchus maculatus, we manipulated three factors: familiarity among rival males, the maximum number of rivals encountered simultaneously and the total number of rivals encountered over a 48 h period. Males produced smaller ejaculates when exposed to more rivals in total, regardless of the maximum number of rivals they encountered simultaneously. Males did not respond to familiarity. Our results demonstrate that males of this species can sum the number of rivals encountered over separate days, and therefore the confounding of familiarity with the total level of competition in previous studies should not be ignored.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20182589
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume286
Issue number1895
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2019

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