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Male-Male Competition Ensures Honest Signaling of Male Parental Ability in the Three-Spined Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)

Ulrika Candolin
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Vol. 49, No. 1 (Dec., 2000), pp. 57-61
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4601857
Page Count: 5
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Male-Male Competition Ensures Honest Signaling of Male Parental Ability in the Three-Spined Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
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Abstract

The importance of socially imposed costs for the evolution and maintenance of honest sexual signals has received less attention than other costs. Here I show that male-male competition can increase the honesty of sexual signaling in relation to male parental ability in a species with flexible signaling. When four three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) males were allowed to court a female first separately and then in competition, red nuptial coloration under competition reflected male parental ability more accurately than red coloration when separated. Parental ability was determined as the ability of the male to raise a clutch of eggs to the hatching stage under interaction with other breeding and non-breeding males. The increased honesty under competition was probably due to subordinate males of poor parental ability decreasing their color expression under interaction to reduce the risk of fights with superior males. However, socially imposed costs of signaling were probably not the main factors maintaining honest signaling, as red coloration reflected male parental ability also in the absence of competition, although less accurately. Nevertheless, the small-scale differences that male-male competition induced can significantly facilitate adaptive female choice and have large impacts on sexual selection.

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