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Maximizing male reproductive success in the broad-headed skink (Eumeces laticeps): preliminary evidence for mate guarding, size-assortative pairing, and opportunistic extra-pair mating

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Several lines of evidence suggest that male Eumeces laticeps may increase reproductive success by 1) mating with larger females to increase clutch size, 2) mate guarding to be present during the female's receptive period and/or prevent sperm competition, and 3) engaging in extra-pair copulations. Clutch size increases with female body size, establishing a potential advantage of male preference for large female mates. Mate association lasts up to 8 days and possibly longer, with a mean of nearly 5 days. Males may remain with females during a major portion of the mating season, which preliminary data suggest lasts about two weeks, suggesting that mate-guarding may reduce the level of polygyny. Tethered introductions of intruder males to consort pairs showed that consort males use aggressive behavior to exclude other males from the vicinity of females. Eumeces laticeps exhibits strong positive size-assortative pairing, suggesting the possible importance of male choice of large mates. Female preference for large males could account for this relationship, but only if large females prefer the largest possible males within the acceptable size range and aggressively exclude other females from preferred males. Females are sometimes aggressive to each other, especially near nest sites, but aggression is suppressed by males, as shown by tethered introduction of females to consort pairs. Size-assortative pairing may be based in part on male preference if males can prevent larger females from aggressively excluding smaller ones. In addition to preferentially guarding large females, males not currently guarding mate with any females not large enough to deter them aggressively. A field observation of an extra-pair copulation, responses by consort males to introduced females, and the lack of size preference in the absence of consorts suggest that males may engage opportunistically in extra-pair copulations to increase reproductive success and are not then choosy about female size.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Indiana 48805, USA; 2: Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019, USA


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