An integrated approach to infer the mechanisms of mate choice for size
UNIVERSAL IDENTIFIER: http://hdl.handle.net/11093/2871
EDITED VERSION: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0003347221000683
DOCUMENT TYPE: article
Size-assortative mating and sexual selection on size are common across species. Since both may be a result of mate choice, mate choice based on size should also be a widespread process. This behaviour is, however, rarely studied directly and thus the biological causes that determine size-based mate choice are poorly understood. To address this, we studied the size-based mate choice in an intertidal snail, Echinolittorina malaccana, that has been used as a model to understand this process. Previous studies, assuming a quantitative Gaussian mating preference function, have inferred that mate choice in this snail is caused by a size similarity mechanism (males prefer to mate with females slightly larger than themselves). To further test and quantify this proposed mechanism, we conducted mate choice experiments with alternative designs (single, male and multiple choice) in the laboratory and compared the results to mate choice data observed in natural populations. This integrated approach allowed us to elucidate the mechanism of mate choice by evaluating alternative mating models that best fitted the observed data of various designs. Results confirmed the similarity-based mechanism but showed deviations at extreme size classes. The single choice design indicated that mate choice was exercised during one-on-one maleefemale interactions, but the strength of mate choice increased with the presence of additional individuals (males in the male choice design, and both males and females in the multiplechoice design). Multiple-choice experiments are, therefore, the most valuable and useful design to infer how males choose mates in the wild, as they best mimic the natural scenario and the results are the most similar to those observed in natural populations. To elucidate the mechanisms causing this male choice for particular female sizes, the next steps are to identify the genetic basis as well as potential physiological benefits associated with choosing slightly larger females.
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