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Am Nat. 2002 Nov;160(5):645-60. doi: 10.1086/342821.

Mate-search efficiency can determine the evolution of separate sexes and the stability of hermaphroditism in animals.

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Department of Biological and Environmental Science, P.O. Box 35, University of Jyväskylä, 40351 Jyväskylä, Finland.


Limited availability of mating partners has been proposed as an explanation for the occurrence of simultaneous hermaphroditism in animals with pair mating. When low population density or low mobility of a species limits the number of potential mates, simultaneous hermaphrodites may have a selective advantage because, first, they are able to adjust the allocation of resources between male and female functions in order to maximize fitness; second, in a hermaphroditic population the likelihood of meeting a partner is higher because all individuals are potential mates; and, third, in the absence of mating partners, many simultaneously hermaphroditic animals have the option of reproducing through self-fertilization. Recognizing that mate availability is central to the existing theory of hermaphroditism in animals, it is important to examine the effects of mate search on predictions of the stability of hermaphroditism. Many hermaphroditic animals can increase the number of potential mates they contact by active searching. However, since mate search has costs in terms of time and energy, the increased number of potential mates will be traded off against the amount of resources that can be allocated to the production of gametes. We explore the consequences of this trade-off to the evolution of mating strategies and to the selective advantage of self-fertilization. We show that in low and moderate population densities, poor mate-search efficiency and high costs of searching stabilize hermaphroditism and bias sex allocation toward female function. In addition, in very low population densities, there is strong selective advantage for self-fertilization, but this advantage decreases considerably in species with high mate-search efficiency. Most important, however, we present a novel evolutionary prediction: when mate search is efficient, disruptive frequency-dependent selection on time allocation to mate search leads to the evolution of searching and nonsearching phenotypes and, ultimately, to the evolution of males and females.

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