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Evolution. 2014 May;68(5):1320-31. doi: 10.1111/evo.12353. Epub 2014 Mar 4.

Disentangling precopulatory and postcopulatory sexual selection in polyandrous species.

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Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175, campus CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293, Montpellier Cedex 5, France.


Sexual selection operates on a sequence of events, from mating to offspring production. Which stages in this sequence undergo stronger selection, especially the relative importance of pre- versus postcopulatory processes, are intensely debated issues. Unequal siring success among mates of polyandrous females is classically taken as evidence for a large contribution of postcopulatory processes to the variance in male reproductive success (var(RSm )). However, paternity skews also depend on the timing and number of copulations, a source of variation that should be considered precopulatory rather than postcopulatory. We develop a method for decomposing var(RSm ) accounting for copulatory activity and apply it to experimental mating groups of the snail Physa acuta. In our experiment, 40% of var(RSm ) emerges at the precopulatory stage, only half of which depends on variation in mating success (number of partners). Ignoring copulation characteristics can therefore lead to severe underestimation of precopulatory sexual selection. Moreover, although only 36% of var(RSm ) arises at the postcopulatory stage, this is when sexual selection on body weight mostly occurs. Finally, trade-offs were detected between different components of precopulatory success, whereas pre- and postcopulatory success appear independent. Our study opens the way to a detailed quantitative understanding of sexual selection in polyandrous species.


Bateman gradients; Physa acuta; hermaphrodite; phenotypic trade-offs; sperm precedence; variance decomposition

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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