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Abstract

Although female insects generally gain reproductive benefits from mating frequently, females do not mate unlimited numbers of times. This study asks whether the limit on female mating rate is imposed by trade-offs between reproduction and survival. Female Gryllus vocalis were given the opportunity to mate 5, 10, or 15 times with novel males, and the effects on daily fecundity (egg production), fertility (proportion of eggs that were fertilized), and female post-experimental longevity were measured. Females that mated 10 times laid more eggs and had a higher proportion of fertile eggs than females that mated 5 times. However, females that mated 15 times did not lay significantly more eggs or have a higher proportion of fertile eggs than females that mated 10 times. Although number of matings did not affect the date that females laid their last egg, mating more times was associated with a prolonged period of laying fertile eggs. Number of matings did not affect female post-experimental longevity. Thus, there was no trade-off between female reproductive effort and survival, even when females mated very large numbers of times. When females were allowed to mate ad libitum, the average number of times that females mated was greater than the number of times that confers maximal fitness. The lack of cost to mating explains why females might be willing to mate beyond the point of diminishing reproductive returns.