Are old males still good males and can females tell the difference?

Do hidden advantages of mating with old males off-set costs related to fertility, or are we missing something else?



Sperm function generally declines with male age. Paradoxically, females of many species still choose to mate with old males rather than young males. Females choosing old mates may suffer reduced fertilization rates and an increased incidence of birth defects in offspring, lowering fitness which may in turn lead to conflict between the sexes. This apparent paradox has generated much interest from theorists, but whether this paradox presents in nature remains equivocal. Empirical studies have found mixed support for both a decline in fertility with male age and age-based female mate preference. Here, we examine recent evidence for this paradox, identify confounding variables, highlight areas that deserve further investigation, and suggest avenues for future research.