Constrained sex allocation in a parasitoid due to variation in male quality

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Abstract

The theory of constrained sex allocation posits that when a fraction of females in a haplodiploid population go unmated and thus produce only male offspring, mated females will evolve to lay a female-biased sex ratio. I examined evidence for constrained sex ratio evolution in the parasitic hymenopteran Uscana semifumipennis. Mated females in the laboratory produced more female-biased sex ratios than the sex ratio of adults hatching from field-collected eggs, consistent with constrained sex allocation theory. However, the male with whom a female mated affected her offspring sex ratio, even when sperm was successfully transferred, suggesting that constrained sex ratios can occur even in populations where all females succeed in mating. A positive relationship between sex ratio and fecundity indicates that females may become sperm-limited. Variation among males occurred even at low fecundity, however, suggesting that other factors may also be involved. Further, a quantitative genetic experiment found significant additive genetic variance in the population for the sex ratio of offspring produced by females. This has only rarely been demonstrated in a natural population of parasitoids, but is a necessary condition for sex ratio evolution. Finally, matings with larger males produced more female-biased offspring sex-ratios, suggesting positive selection on male size. Because the great majority of parasitic hymenoptera are monandrous, the finding of natural variation among males in their capacity to fertilize offspring, even after mating successfully, suggests that females may often be constrained in the sex allocation by inadequate number or quality of sperm transferred.

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