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Keywords:

  • allocation strategy;
  • behavioural plasticity;
  • developmental plasticity;
  • life-history;
  • nutrient intake;
  • social environment;
  • trade-offs

Abstract

The social environment has a strong effect on the strength and direction of sexual selection. Juveniles, however, often have social cues that signal the current competitive environment which may provide cues of future competitive challenges. Here we demonstrate that juvenile crickets (Teleogryllus commodus) use the calls of surrounding adult males as a cue of the quality and density of rivals/mates they are likely to encounter. We reared hatchling crickets in six acoustic environments that varied in the density and quality of calls and demonstrate that individuals modified their development rate, phenotype and behaviour at maturity. Males matured more rapidly at a smaller size and called more when reared in a low competition environment. In contrast, males delayed maturity to grow larger when faced with an increased density of high-quality males. Females matured more rapidly when reared in a high density of high-quality males and allocated proportionately more resources towards egg production. A second experiment limiting nutrient availability demonstrates sex-specific allocation shifts in the last stadium when cues are most reliable. Our results demonstrate that the social environment significantly affects allocation strategies and phenotypes, highlighting the importance of juvenile experience and competitive context when examining fitness and selection.