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Female mouthbrooders in control of pre- and postmating sexual selection


  • Marcel P. Haesler
  • Charlotte M. Lindeyer
  • Oliver Otti
  • Danielle Bonfils
  • Dik Heg
  • Michael Taborsky


The fertilization mode determines which sex has greater control over the offspring's sires. With internal fertilization, females can strongly influence the chances of different males' ejaculates to fertilize their eggs by the postmating sexual selection process referred to as cryptic female choice. In contrast, when fertilization is external and multiple males compete in this process, the outcome of pre- and postmating sexual selection is largely determined by the competitive quality of males and their sperm. Intermediate modes of fertilization as found in mouthbrooding fishes might allow for a greater maternal influence on her offspring's sire. Here, we show that in the maternal mouthbrooder Ophthalmotilapia ventralis, females collect sperm from different males in their mouth, and males can successfully fertilize eggs even if the female did not lay eggs with them. In the field, 25 of 30 clutches had multiple sires, and the fertilization success was significantly biased toward particular males in most clutches. A mate choice experiment revealed that females prefer to spawn with males possessing strongly elongated pelvic fins, a conspicuous secondary sexual character of males in this cichlid. Additionally, the body length of males partly explained their success in sperm competition within the females' mouth, a factor without apparent influence on female choice of partners with which to lay eggs. Hence, successful sires are determined by a 2-step process that is largely under female control; females select which males to spawn with and from which males they collect additional ejaculates for the subsequent sperm competition in their mouth. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcel P. Haesler & Charlotte M. Lindeyer & Oliver Otti & Danielle Bonfils & Dik Heg & Michael Taborsky, 2011. "Female mouthbrooders in control of pre- and postmating sexual selection," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(5), pages 1033-1041.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:5:p:1033-1041

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