Mate choice based on a key ecological performance trait


Lisa K. Snowberg, Integrative Biology, University of Texas, 1 University Station, C0930, Austin, TX 78712, USA.
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Mate preference for well-adapted individuals may strengthen divergent selection and thereby facilitate adaptive divergence. We performed mate choice experiments in which we manipulated male red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra complex) feeding rates. Using association time as a proxy for preference, we found that females preferred faster foragers, which reinforces natural selection because poorly adapted males would be less likely to obtain a mate as well as less likely to survive. Although theoretical models predict direct preference for adaptation and performance, to the best of our knowledge this experiment provides the first evidence of individuals directly assessing feeding performance in mate choice. In species where assessing the ecological adaptation of potential mates is possible, females may gain fitness benefits from choosing a well-adapted mate directly or indirectly, promoting the use of information about ecological adaptation in mate choice.