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Intra- and intersexual selection on male body size are complimentary in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)

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Intrasexual competition between males and intersexual mate choice by females may have complementary or antagonistic effects on the evolution of sexually-selected traits. We used open-aquarium experiments to test for the effects of male body size and male secondary sexual characters on male–male competition and on female mate choice in the fathead minnow Pimephales promelas. Larger males were more successful than smaller males in competing for nesting substrates. Larger males were also preferentially chosen by females for spawning. Secondary sexual characters (tubercle number, banding pattern, and dorsal pad development) were not associated with success in male–male contests and were not preferred by females. In a separate experiment, we found that female choice was not influenced by past male reproductive success. We confirmed genetic paternity of fertilized eggs with microsatellites and showed that our results were not complicated by clutch stealing or multiple paternity. Collectively, our results suggest that male–male competition and female mate choice have complimentary effects on the evolution of large male body size in fathead minnows.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Vermont, Bington, VT, USA; Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA;, Email:; 2: Department of Biology, University of Vermont, Bington, VT, USA


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