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Age-specific mating strategies and reproductive senescence

Authors

  • M. RICHARD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratoire d’Ecologie UMR 7526, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Bât A, 7èmeétage, 7 quai Saint Bernard, 75252 Paris cedex, France,
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  • J. LECOMTE,

    1. Laboratoire Ecologie, Systematique et Evolution UMR 8079, Université Paris Sud XI — Centre d’Orsay, Bâtiment 360, F-91405 Orsay cedex, France
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  • M. DE FRAIPONT,

    1. Laboratoire d’Ecologie UMR 7526, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Bât A, 7èmeétage, 7 quai Saint Bernard, 75252 Paris cedex, France,
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  • J. CLOBERT

    1. Laboratoire d’Ecologie UMR 7526, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Bât A, 7èmeétage, 7 quai Saint Bernard, 75252 Paris cedex, France,
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Murielle Richard, Fax: 33 (0) 1 44 27 35 16; E-mail: mrichard@snv.jussieu.fr

Abstract

While males gain obvious direct advantages from multiple mating, the reproductive capacity of females is more constrained. The reason why polyandry evolved in females is therefore open to many conjectures. One hypothesis postulates that females gain indirect benefits by increasing the probability of siring young from high quality males. To explore this hypothesis, we used the natural variation of the reproductive value that males and females undergo through age. The age-related variation of phenotypic performance might then induce variations in mating strategies in males and females. Using the common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) as our model system, we showed that reproductive immaturity and senescence created variability in both male and female reproductive success (including survival of offspring). Consistent with theory, males at their best-performing phenotype adopted a polygynous strategy. These males were of an intermediate age and they produced offspring of higher viability than younger and older males. In contrast, females at their best performing phenotype, also of an intermediate age, were less polyandrous than other less- performing females. Middle-aged females tended to mate with males of an intermediate age and produced litters with higher viability independently from their reproductive strategy. Males of an intermediate age enhanced their fitness by additional matings with young or old females. Young and old females increased their fitness by being more polyandrous. Polyandry therefore appears as means to seek for good males. A positive correlation between males and their partners’ fitness disagree with the idea that polyandry is the result of a sexual conflict in this species.

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