MALE COURTSHIP ATTRACTIVENESS AND PATERNITY SUCCESS IN PHOTINUS GREENI FIREFLIES

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Abstract

Although female mate choice and male sperm competition have separately attracted much attention, few studies have addressed how precopulatory and postcopulatory episodes of sexual selection might interact to drive the evolution of male traits. In Photinus fireflies, females preferentially respond to males based on their bioluminescent courtship signals, and females gain direct benefits through male nuptial gifts acquired during multiple matings over several nights. We experimentally manipulated matings of P. greeni fireflies to test the hypothesis that postcopulatory paternity success might be biased toward males that are more attractive during courtship interactions. We first measured male courtship attractiveness to individual females using field behavioral assays. Females were then assigned to two double-mating treatments: (1) least attractive second male–females were first mated with their most attractive male, followed by their least attractive male, or (2) most attractive second male–females mated with males in reverse order. Larval offspring produced by each female following these double matings were genotyped using random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers, and male paternity was determined. Contrary to prediction, firefly males that were more attractive to females based on their bioluminescent courtship displays subsequently showed significantly lower paternity, reflecting possible male trade-offs or sexual conflict. Differences in male paternity were not related to male body condition, testes or accessory gland mass, or to variation in female spermathecal size. Additionally, this study suggests that changes in phenotypic selection gradients may occur during different reproductive stages. These results indicate that it is crucial for future studies on sexual selection in polyandrous species to integrate both precopulatory and postcopulatory episodes to fully understand the evolution of male traits.

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