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Abstract

Differences in male mating success can generate selection on male morphological traits and courtship behaviors involved in male–male competition or female mate choice. In Photinus fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), courtship is based on bioluminescent flash signals produced by both sexes. We conducted field observations of Photinus greeni fireflies engaged in competitive courtships, in which females are able to simultaneously assess several males, to identify male morphological traits and courtship behaviors that might predict male mating success. Male morphological traits did not differ between males that successfully mated compared with unsuccessful males (dialoging males that did not mate). However, courtship behavioral interactions differed: successful males tended to have higher flash pattern rates (number of flash patterns per minute), and their courtship flashes were more likely to be answered by females. We also examined how the risk of predation by Photuris fireflies altered courtship behavior of their Photinus prey. When predatory Photuris fireflies were present, P. greeni females were less likely to mate, and showed decreased flash responses to most males. However, P. greeni males that did successfully mate in spite of Photuris presence were males that maintained high flash pattern rates that elicited female responses. These results suggest that both female mate choice and Photuris predation exert strong selective pressures on the evolution of courtship signals in Photinus fireflies.