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Abstract

In species where advancing sire age is associated with decreased progeny fitness, female resistance to mating with old partners can be expected to evolve. In polyandrous species, such resistance may be contingent on female mating experience: virgins should be relatively indiscriminate to ensure egg fertility, whereas non-virgins can be expected to base their re-mating decisions on the age of their previous versus potential new partners, and ‘trade-up’ if previously mated with old males. Here, we tested these predictions using a promiscuous and relatively long-living bulb mite (Rhizoglyphus robini), in which old sire age is associated with decreased fecundity of daughters. In a fully factorial design, we applied two male treatments, young and old, and three female treatments, virgin, previously mated to an old male and previously mated to a young male. Consistent with earlier studies, we observed a reduced mating success of old males. However, we found no support for attributing this result to female discrimination, as female behavior in response to male mounting attempts was not affected by the age of the suitor, or by its interaction with the age of the female’s previous mate. Interestingly, females were passive during 93% of male mounting attempts observed, suggesting that once they are located by a male, they exert little control over copulation. Old males had lower mate-searching activity and were less efficient in obtaining matings (lower success rate per mounting attempt), suggesting a decreased mate-securing ability because of aging. Overall, our results suggest that in bulb mites, male ability to secure mates declines with age, whereas they do not support the prediction that females actively discriminate against old partners.