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Male allocation to ejaculation and mating effort imposes different life history trade-offs.

PLoS Biology 2024 May 25
When males compete, sexual selection favors reproductive traits that increase their mating or fertilization success (pre- and postcopulatory sexual selection). It is assumed that males face a trade-off between these 2 types of sexual traits because they both draw from the same pool of resources. Consequently, allocation into mate acquisition or ejaculation should create similar trade-offs with other key life history traits. Tests of these assumptions are exceedingly rare. Males only ejaculate after they mate, and the costs of ejaculation are therefore highly confounded with those of mating effort. Consequently, little is known about how each component of reproductive allocation affects a male's future performance. Here, we ran an experiment using a novel technique to distinguish the life history costs of mating effort and ejaculation for mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki). We compared manipulated males (mate without ejaculation), control males (mate and ejaculate), and naïve males (neither mate nor ejaculate) continuously housed with a female and 2 rival males. We assessed their growth, somatic maintenance, mating and fighting behavior, and sperm traits after 8 and 16 weeks. Past mating effort significantly lowered a male's future mating effort and growth, but not his sperm production, while past sperm release significantly lowered a male's future ejaculate quantity, but not his mating effort. Immune response was the only trait impacted by both past mating effort and past ejaculation. These findings challenge the assumption that male reproductive allocation draws from a common pool of resources to generate similar life history costs later in life. Instead, we provide clear evidence that allocation into traits under pre- and postcopulatory sexual selection have different trait-specific effects on subsequent male reproductive performance.

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