Parasites make male pipefish careless

  • Mazzi D
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Parasite-mediated sexual selection is expected to favour the avoidance of matings with infected individuals. However, the extent to which the costs and benefits of discriminating against parasitized mates trade off may depend upon numerous factors. I investigated the effects of sex and infection status on choosiness in sex-role reversed deep-snouted pipefish (Syngnathus typhle L.) that were either artificially infected with the trematode parasite Cryptocotyle sp. or sham-infected. Sham-infected males were significantly more likely to associate with a sham-infected female rather than with a Cryptocotyle-infected female. Infected males failed to discriminate against infected potential partners. Males were choosier the larger they were relative to the females available for choice. Females were not discriminatory, regardless of their infection status. Given an inverse relation between female fecundity and parasite load, choosy unparasitized males may gain enhanced reproductive success from their choice decisions. In contrast, more heavily infected wild-caught males gave birth to slightly fewer, but not smaller offspring than did uninfected or lightly infected males, suggesting only a low direct premium on choosy females. The detrimental effects of parasitism on male choosiness, and the lack of female discrimination against infected males likely have profound repercussions on the strength of sexual selection acting on the two sexes and on the dynamics of host-parasite interactions in this system.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Choosiness
  • Cryptocotyle
  • Mate choice
  • Parasite-mediated sexual selection
  • Parasitism
  • Pipefish
  • Syngnathus typhle

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  • D. Mazzi

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