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Abstract

In Caribbean Panama, nonreproductive male and female stomatopods are solitary and defend their own coral-rubble cavities. When breeding pairs form, however, males assume all responsibility for cavity defense. To compare success in cavity defense and defensive tactics among paired and unpaired males, and to examine the tendency for paired stomatopods to exchange their present mates for larger (higher quality) individuals, we introduced same-sized and 15% larger male, and same-sized and 15% larger reproductive female intruders to paired and unpaired male residents in a balanced design. Paired males were more successful at cavity defense than unpaired males, evidently because paired males strike intruders more than unpaired males, and because intruders fight less intensely against paired males than against unpaired males. Paired males occasionally attempted extrapair copulations, but showed little tendency to abandon their mates in favor of larger females. Paired females, however, mated readily with intruder males that evicted resident males. Populationwide female breeding synchrony and prolonged female receptivity before oviposition reduce variance in male mating success and may force males to guard the breeding cavity to assure their paternity. Uncertainty about the reproductive condition of intruder females may prevent males from exchanging mates.