The effect of relatedness on mating behavior in the satin bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)
Reynolds, Sheila Mayo
Braun, Michael J.
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Behavior is a main component of sexual selection theory in which male competition and female mate choice influence the evolution of a species. Relatedness commonly affects behavioral interactions, but the potential for relatedness to influence sexual selection is often overlooked. Here I show that relatedness affects mating behaviors in satin bowerbirds. Bowerbirds are a model species for non-resource based mating systems in which males provide only sperm to females, and females are free to mate with their preferred males, typically resulting in high skews in male mating success. Males build stick structures (bowers) on the ground to attract, and copulate with, females. Males compete, in part, by destroying neighboring males' bowers. Females search among multiple adjacent bowers and then select subsets of these males for courtship and then copulation. Automated video monitoring of bowers allows identification of males that destroy bowers and females that visit bowers for courtship or copulation. Using microsatellite genetic markers to estimate relatedness, I show that paternity assignments based on observed copulations match the genetic sires of offspring, supporting the hypotheses that copulations occur only at bowers and that male reproductive success can be reliably estimated from observed copulations. Next, I report that competing males are less aggressive, in the form of bower destructions, towards relatives than non-relatives and that this restraining effect of relatedness on aggression favors the close spatial association of relatives' bowers. These results support the hypothesis that relatedness affects male competition and ability to maintain attractive displays for females. Lastly, I investigate the influence of relatedness on female mate choice. I show that females do not actively prefer or avoid relatives in mate choice. However, females bias the areas in which they search for mates to be inclusive of relatives and then mate randomly with respect to relatedness within their search areas, resulting in tendencies to mate with relatives in some years. This effect of relatedness on female mate searching may be due in part to the spatial association of related males, and highlights the influence of mate searching rather than active mate preferences on overall mate choice patterns.