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Short term changes in sex ratio and density alter coercive male mating tactics

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Short term fluctuations in operational sex ratio (OSR) and density can strongly influence male mating, often exacerbating conflict between males and females. Livebearing fishes of the genus Gambusia are ideal for investigating sexual conflict because males of all sizes mate coercively. In this study, we tested how short-term fluctuations in OSR and density influence coercive male mating behaviours. Specifically, we tested the prediction that as OSR becomes more female biased, males will mate with all available females. In contrast, as OSR becomes more male biased, male aggression will inhibit mating frequency. As predicted, males mated with more females as the number of available females increased. Moreover, males were less aggressive as the proportion of females increased and more aggressive as the number of males increased. This resulted in an inverse relationship between mating and aggression with OSR and density. Coercive males attempt to maximize their reproductive success by mating with all available females, which supports classic theory on the impact of OSR and density on reproductive activity.

Affiliations: 1: Sam Houston State University, Department of Biological Sciences, Huntsville, TX 77341, USA; 2: Sam Houston State University, Department of Biological Sciences, Huntsville, TX 77341, USA;, Email: rdeaton@shsu.edu

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