Fitness costs of mating with preferred females in a scramble mating system

Lindsey Swierk, Tracy Langkilde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Little is known about the operation of male mate choice in systems with perceived high costs to male choosiness. Scramble mating systems are one type of system in which male choice is often considered too costly to be selected. However, in many scramble mating systems, there are also potentially high rewards of male choosiness, as females vary dramatically in reproductive output and males typically mate once per season and/or per lifetime. Using scramble mating wood frogs (Rana sylvatica), we tested whether males gain fitness benefits by mating with preferred females. We conducted choice trials (1 male presented simultaneously with 2 females) and permitted males to mate with their preferred or nonpreferred female. Offspring of preferred and nonpreferred females were reared in the laboratory and field, and we quantified various fitness-relevant parameters, including survivorship and growth rates. Across multiple parameters measured, matings with preferred females produced fewer and lower-quality offspring than did those with nonpreferred females. Our results are inconsistent with the idea that mate choice confers benefits on the choosing sex. We instead propose that, in scramble systems, males will be more likely to amplex females that are easier to capture, which may correlate with lower quality but increases male likelihood of successfully mating. Such male choice may not favor increased fitness when the operational sex ratio is less biased toward males in scramble mating systems but is, instead, a bet-hedging tactic benefitting males when available females are limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberarz001
Pages (from-to)658-665
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 13 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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