Fitness Benefits of Mate Choice for Compatibility in a Socially Monogamous Species
Malika Ihle , Bart Kempenaers, Wolfgang Forstmeier
Published: September 14, 2015
Source/Fonte: Pixel Memoirs - Fotolia
Research on mate choice has primarily focused on preferences for quality indicators, assuming that all individuals show consensus about who is the most attractive. However, in some species, mating preferences seem largely individual-specific, suggesting that they might target genetic or behavioral compatibility. Few studies have quantified the fitness consequences of allowing versus preventing such idiosyncratic mate choice. Here, we report on an experiment that controls for variation in overall partner quality and show that zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) pairs that resulted from free mate choice achieved a 37% higher reproductive success than pairs that were forced to mate. Cross-fostering of freshly laid eggs showed that embryo mortality (before hatching) primarily depended on the identity of the genetic parents, whereas offspring mortality during the rearing period depended on foster-parent identity. Therefore, preventing mate choice should lead to an increase in embryo mortality if mate choice targets genetic compatibility (for embryo viability), and to an increase in offspring mortality if mate choice targets behavioral compatibility (for better rearing). We found that pairs from both treatments showed equal rates of embryo mortality, but chosen pairs were better at raising offspring. These results thus support the behavioral, but not the genetic, compatibility hypothesis. Further exploratory analyses reveal several differences in behavior and fitness components between “free-choice” and “forced” pairs.
The last half century has seen a tremendous interest in the study of mate choice and the evolution of traits that make individuals attractive to others. In some species, however, individuals can differ substantially in who they find attractive, and this variation has typically been interpreted as “mate choice for compatibility.” Here, we quantify the benefits of such mate choice in a socially monogamous passerine bird, the zebra finch. We found that pairs that resulted from free mate choice achieved a 37% higher reproductive success than pairs that were forced to mate with a randomly assigned individual. Forced pairs suffered from increased failure to fertilize eggs and from increased mortality of hatched offspring. In females, we observed a reduced readiness to copulate with the assigned partner, while males that were force‐paired showed reduced parental care and increased activity in courting extra‐pair females. These findings support the hypothesis that zebra finches choose mates on the basis of behavioral compatibility. In contrast, it appears that zebra finches have not evolved a mechanism that would allow them to select a partner with whom they could minimize the rate of embryo mortality. This argues against mate choice for genetic compatibility.
Citation: Ihle M, Kempenaers B, Forstmeier W (2015) Fitness Benefits of Mate Choice for Compatibility in a Socially Monogamous Species. PLoS Biol 13(9): e1002248. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002248
Academic Editor: Russell Bonduriansky, University of New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
Received: February 25, 2015; Accepted: August 6, 2015; Published: September 14, 2015
Copyright: © 2015 Ihle et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.
Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
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