Female fitness optimum at intermediate mating rates under traumatic mating

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Abstract

Traumatic mating behaviors often bear signatures of sexual conflict and are then typically considered a male strategy to circumvent female choice mechanisms. In an extravagant mating ritual, the hermaphroditic sea slug Siphopteron quadrispinosum pierces the integument of their mating partners with a syringe-like penile stylet that injects prostate fluids. Traumatic injection is followed by the insertion of a spiny penis into the partner's gonopore to transfer sperm. Despite traumatic mating, field mating rates exceed those required for female fertilization insurance, possibly because costs imposed on females are balanced by direct or indirect benefits of multiple sperm receipt. To test this idea, we exposed animals to a relevant range of mating opportunity regimes and assessed the effects on mating behavior and proxies of female fitness. We find penis intromission duration to decrease with mating rates, and a female fecundity maximum at intermediate mating rates. The latter finding indicates that benefits beyond fertilization insurance can make higher mating rates also beneficial from a female perspective in this traumatically mating species.

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Lange, R., Gerlach, T., Beninde, J., Werminghausen, J., Reichel, V., & Anthes, N. (2012). Female fitness optimum at intermediate mating rates under traumatic mating. PLoS ONE, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0043234

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