Male-Biased Mate Competition in King Penguin Trio Parades



Ismaël Keddar, Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CNRS, UMR 5175, 1919 Route de Mende, 34090 Montpellier, France.



Darwin devised sexual selection theory to explain sexual dimorphisms. Further developments of the theory identified the operational sex-ratio (OSR) as one of its cornerstones, and it was commonly admitted that an OSR biased toward one sex would lead to stronger selection pressures toward that sex. Recent theoretical developments have challenged this view and showed that the OSR alone does not determine the direction of sexual selection, more particularly in mutually ornamented species exhibiting high and similar parental investment by both sexes. These developments, however, focused on mutual intersexual selection, and little is known about intrasexual selection of both males and females in species exhibiting such characteristics. The first aim of our study was to test the relative involvement of males and females in same-sex contest over mates in the king penguin, a species exhibiting mutual ornamentation of the sexes, high parental investment by both sexes, and a male-biased OSR. We investigated the sex composition of trio parades, which are groups of three individuals that compete for mates during pair formation. We found that these trios consist of a female trailed by two fighting males in 19 of 20 cases; the 20th trio was all male. The second aim of our study was to investigate the existence of within-sex differences in colour ornaments between individuals involved in such trios and individuals already paired. While limited sample sizes precluded detection of statistically significant differences between trios vs. pairs, reflectance measurements suggested that the beak spot of males in trios were more strongly ultraviolet than the beak spot of males in pairs. We concluded that intrasexual selection in our colony follows the typical pattern of mate competition observed in species in which sexual dimorphisms and OSR are male biased, and discussed the ultraviolet difference within the framework of the king penguins' colour perception.