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Keywords:

  • evolutionarily stable strategy;
  • game theory;
  • life history evolution;
  • models;
  • reproductive strategies;
  • sequential hermaphroditism;
  • sex allocation

Abstract

Theory predicts that the ‘size advantage’ (rate of increase in male and female fitness with age or size) determines the direction and the timing of sex change in sequential hermaphrodites. Whereas the size advantage is generated by the mating system and would be expected to vary within and between species, the shape or form of the size advantage has rarely been estimated directly. Here, we ask whether theoretical predictions about the timing of sex change hold under different types of size advantage. We model two biological scenarios representing different processes generating the size advantage and find that different types of size advantage can produce patterns that qualitatively differ from classic predictions. Our results demonstrate that a good understanding of sequentially hermaphroditic mating systems, and specifically, a direct assessment of the processes underlying the size advantage is crucial to reliably predict and explain within-species patterns of the timing of sex change.