Predation risk, food deprivation and non-random mating by size in the stream water strider, Aquarius remigis

Andrew Sih, James J. Krupa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Non-random mating by size (NRMS) plays a central role in the study of sexual selection and the evolution of mating systems. Theory suggests that NRMS should be influenced by conflicting demands (e.g., predation risk, hunger); few experimental studies, however, have addressed these effects. We used a factorial experiment to examine the influence of predatory green sunfish and food deprivation on NRMS in male and female stream water striders, Aquarius remigis. As predicted by theory, food deprivation decreased the large-male mating advantage. The influence of predation risk, however, went against existing theory; that is, risk increased the large male mating advantage. The degree of large-male mating advantage was negatively related to a measure of the rate of male harassment of females. A behavioral mechanism that can explain these patterns emphasizes the contrasting effects of different competing demands on male harassment rates, female resistance and the role of male size in overcoming female resistance. Females usually resist male mating attempts. Successful mating occurs when males overcome female resistance. If harassment rates (of females by males) are low, larger males have a mating advantage over smaller males perhaps because females resist heavily and thus only larger males can overcome female resistance. If, however, male harassment rates are very high, female resistance might be swamped; mating should then be more random with respect to male size. Food deprivation increases gerrid activity and thus increases harassment rates which should then reduce NRMS. In contrast, risk decreases gerrid activity, thus decreasing harassment rates and increasing NRMS. Females did not show significant NRMS. Females did, however, show a pattern of change in NRMS that is consistent with male choice for larger females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-56
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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