Females benefit from multiple mating but not multiple mates in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides

C. M. House, C. A. Walling, C. E. Stamper, A. J. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Male reproductive success generally increases with number of mates but this need not be true for females. If females are the limiting sex, as few as one mate can be optimal. Despite the theoretical differences driving multiple mating in the sexes, multiple mating is the norm rather than the exception. Empirical investigations are therefore required to determine why females mate with multiple males. Both nonadaptive (correlated responses to selection on males, given the mean mating rates have to be the same) and adaptive (direct or indirect fitness benefits) can drive the evolution of multiple mating in females. Females of the burying beetle Nicorphorus vespilloides often mate repeatedly with the same male, but this appears to be a correlated response to selection on males rather than reflecting direct benefits to females for multiple mating. However, an unexamined alternative to this nonadaptive explanation is that females benefit by mating with multiple different males and therefore are selected for general promiscuity. Here we examine if mating polyandrously provides fitness benefits by examing the effects of number of mates (1, 2 or 3), mating system (monogamous, polyandrous) and their interaction. The only significant influence was mating more than once. This did not depend on type of mating. We suggest that unlike most other species examined, in N. vespilloides mating with the same male repeatedly or with several different males reflects an indiscriminate willingness to mate as a result of correlated selection on males for high rates of mating.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1961-1966
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


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