Female sexual polymorphism and fecundity consequences of male mating harassment in the wild
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Genetic and phenotypic variation in female response towards male mating attempts has been found in several laboratory studies, demonstrating sexually antagonistic co-evolution driven by mating costs on female fitness. Theoretical models suggest that the type and degree of genetic variation in female resistance could affect the evolutionary outcome of sexually antagonistic mating interactions, resulting in either rapid development of reproductive isolation and speciation or genetic clustering and female sexual polymorphisms. However, evidence for genetic variation of this kind in natural populations of non-model organisms is very limited. Likewise, we lack knowledge on female fecundity-consequences of matings and the degree of male mating harassment in natural settings. Here we present such data from natural populations of a colour polymorphic damselfly. Using a novel experimental technique of colour dusting males in the field, we show that heritable female colour morphs differ in their propensity to accept male mating attempts. These morphs also differ in their degree of resistance towards male mating attempts, the number of realized matings and in their fecundity-tolerance to matings and mating attempts. These results show that there may be genetic variation in both resistance and tolerance to male mating attempts (fitness consequences of matings) in natural populations, similar to the situation in plant-pathogen resistance systems. Male mating harassment could promote the maintenance of a sexual mating polymorphism in females, one of few empirical examples of sympatric genetic clusters maintained by sexual conflict.