Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 42–46
Although mating is costly, multiple mating by females is a taxonomically widespread phenomenon. Theory has suggested that polyandry may allow females to gain genetic benefits for their offspring, and thus offset the costs associated with this mating strategy. For example, the good sperm hypothesis posits that females benefit from mating multiply when genetically superior males have increased success in sperm competition and produce high quality offspring. We applied the powerful approach of experimental evolution to explore the potential for polyandry to drive evolutionary increases in female fitness in house mice, Mus domesticus. We maintained polygamously mated and monogamously mated selection lines of house mice for 14 generations, before determining whether selection history could account for divergence in embryo viability. We found that males from lineages evolving with post-copulatory sexual selection sire offspring with increased viability, suggesting that polyandry results in the production of higher quality offspring and thus provides long-term fitness benefits to females.
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