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Keywords:

  • cost of mating;
  • courtship;
  • Drosophila melanogaster;
  • senescence;
  • sexual conflict;
  • sexual selection;
  • sexually antagonistic coevolution

Abstract

The evolution of female mate choice, broadly defined to include any female behaviour or morphology which biases matings towards certain male phenotypes, is traditionally thought to result from direct or indirect benefits which females acquire when mating with preferred males. In contrast, new models have shown that female mate choice can be generated by sexual conflict, where preferred males may cause a fitness depression in females. Several studies have shown that female Drosophila melanogaster bias matings towards large males. Here, we use male size as a proxy for male attractiveness and test how female fitness is affected by reproducing with large or small males, under two different male densities. Females housed with large males had reduced lifespan and aged at an accelerated rate compared with females housed with small males, and increased male density depressed female fitness further. These fitness differences were due to effects on several different fitness components. Female fitness covaried negatively with male courtship rate, which suggests a cost of courtship. Mating rate increased with male size, whereas female fitness peaked at an intermediate mating rate. Our results suggest that female mate choice in D. melanogaster is, at least in part, a by-product of sexual conflict over the mating rate.