The effects of competition on fitness depend on the sex of both competitors

Maider Iglesias-Carrasco, Samuel Brookes, Loeske E.B. Kruuk, Megan L. Head*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In intraspecific competition, the sex of competing individuals is likely to be important in determining the outcome of competitive interactions and the way exposure to conspecifics during development influences adult fitness traits. Previous studies have explored differences between males and females in their response to intraspecific competition. However, few have tested how the sex of the competitors, or any interactions between focal and competitor sex, influences the nature and intensity of competition. We set up larval seed beetles Callosobruchus maculatus to develop either alone or in the presence of a male or female competitor and measured a suite of traits: development time, emergence weight; male ejaculate mass, copulation duration, and lifespan; and female lifetime fecundity, offspring egg–adult survival, and lifespan. We found effects of competition and competitor sex on the development time and emergence weight of both males and females, and also of an interaction between focal and competitor sex: Females emerged lighter when competing with another female, while males did not. There was little effect of larval competition on male and female adult fitness traits, with the exception of the effect of a female competitor on a focal female's offspring survival rate. Our results highlight the importance of directly measuring the effects of competition on fitness traits, rather than distant proxies for fitness, and suggest that competition with the sex with the greater resource requirements (here females) might play a role in driving trait evolution. We also found that male–male competition during development resulted in shorter copulation times than male–female competition, a result that remained when controlling for the weight of competitors. Although it is difficult to definitively tease apart the effects of social environment and access to resources, this result suggests that something about the sex of competitors other than their size is driving this pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9808-9826
Number of pages19
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number18
Early online date12 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • callosobruchus maculatus
  • fitness
  • intraspecific competition
  • sex-specific
  • social environment


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