Dynamics of intersexual conflict over precopulatory mate guarding in two populations of the isopod Idotea baltica
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Aggressiveness during intersexual conflicts is predicted to depend on its costs, the value of winning and the power asymmetry of the contestants, all of which may vary between populations. In the marine isopod Idotea baltica (Pallas) a conflict occurs as females resist the attempts by males to start precopulatory mate guarding. We analysed contest dynamics with respect to female maturity stage, that is, to time left to reproductive moult, with which the payoffs of guarding for males and females change, We did this in two populations that differ in synchrony of reproduction, sex ratio and the degree of sexual dimorphism. The intensity and dynamics of contests differed between populations: in the more size-dimorphic population, females, the smaller sex, resisted less by forceful flexing but more by hooking their body than in the other population. Male aggressiveness stayed at a constant level with respect to female maturity. In the less size-dimorphic population, female resistance by flexing was intense and it decreased, while male persistence increased, with the approaching reproductive moult. Contests were more intense with small than with large males. These results fit well with the predictions from models of conflict behaviour. Assessment of the payoffs of winning versus contest costs, coadaptation of the level of aggressiveness to the other traits affecting contest outcome, and counteradaptations by the sexes to each other largely explain the dynamics and between-population differences of these contests. (C) 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.