Female mating preferences and offspring survival: testing hypotheses on the genetic basis of mate choice in a wild lekking bird



Indirect benefits of mate choice result from increased offspring genetic quality and may be important drivers of female behaviour. ‘Good-genes-for-viability’ models predict that females prefer mates of high additive genetic value, such that offspring survival should correlate with male attractiveness. Mate choice may also vary with genetic diversity (e.g. heterozygosity) or compatibility (e.g. relatedness), where the female's genotype influences choice. The relative importance of these nonexclusive hypotheses remains unclear. Leks offer an excellent opportunity to test their predictions, because lekking males provide no material benefits and choice is relatively unconstrained by social limitations. Using 12 years of data on lekking lance-tailed manakins, Chiroxiphia lanceolata, we tested whether offspring survival correlated with patterns of mate choice. Offspring recruitment weakly increased with father attractiveness (measured as reproductive success, RS), suggesting attractive males provide, if anything, only minor benefits via offspring viability. Both male RS and offspring survival until fledging increased with male heterozygosity. However, despite parent–offspring correlation in heterozygosity, offspring survival was unrelated to its own or maternal heterozygosity or to parental relatedness, suggesting survival was not enhanced by heterozygosity per se. Instead, offspring survival benefits may reflect inheritance of specific alleles or nongenetic effects. Although inbreeding depression in male RS should select for inbreeding avoidance, mates were not less related than expected under random mating. Although mate heterozygosity and relatedness were correlated, selection on mate choice for heterozygosity appeared stronger than that for relatedness and may be the primary mechanism maintaining genetic variation in this system despite directional sexual selection.