The fitness consequences of mate choice are a source of ongoing debate in evolutionary biology. Recent theory predicts that indirect benefits of female choice due to offspring inheriting superior genes are likely to be negated when there are direct costs associated with choice, including any costs of mating with attractive males. To estimate the fitness consequences of mating with males of varying attractiveness, we housed female house crickets, Acheta domesticus, with either attractive or unattractive males and measured a variety of direct and indirect fitness components. These fitness components were combined to give relative estimates of the number of grandchildren produced and the intrinsic rate of increase (relative net fitness). We found that females mated to attractive males incur a substantial survival cost. However, these costs are cancelled out and may be outweighed by the benefits of having offspring with elevated fitness. This benefit is due predominantly, but not exclusively, to the effect of an increase in sons' attractiveness. Our results suggest that the direct costs that females experience when mating with attractive males can be outweighed by indirect benefits. They also reveal the value of estimating the net fitness consequences of a mating strategy by including measures of offspring quality in estimates of fitness.
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