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Keywords:

  • Direct selection;
  • mathematical model;
  • mating preference;
  • reinforcement;
  • speciation;
  • species recognition

Male mate choice, expressed through courtship preferences, sometime occurs even under the mating system of polygyny, when the operational sex ratio is skewed toward males. The conditions under which male mate choice may be expected during polygyny are not well established. Servedio and Lande (2006, Evolution 60:674–685), assuming strict polygyny where all females have equal mating success, show that when having a preference does not increase the amount of energy that a male can put into courtship, male preferences for “arbitrary” female ornaments should not be expected to evolve; direct selection acts against them because they place males that carry them into situations in which there is high competition for mates. Here I explore in detail two situations under which logic dictates that this effect may be overcome or reversed. First I determine the contributions that direct and indirect selection place on male versus female preferences for traits that increase viability, using notation that allows the exact expression of these measures of selection. I find that direct selection against male preferences still predominates in the male mate choice model, causing less evolution by male than female preferences under these conditions. Second I address whether male mate choice is likely to evolve as a mechanism of premating isolation leading to species recognition, driven by the process of reinforcement. Reinforcement is compared under male and female mate choice, using a variety of models analyzed by both analytical techniques assuming weak selection and numerical techniques under broader selective conditions. I demonstrate that although under many conditions stronger premating isolation evolves under female mate choice, reinforcement may indeed occur via male mate choice alone.