Most theoretical models of age-related mate choice predict that females should prefer older males because they have proven survival ability. An alternative view is that older males represent inferior mates because of negative genetic correlations between early and late fitness components, or because older males have traded off longevity against other fitness components, have accumulated deleterious germ-line mutations, or are less well adapted to current conditions than more recently born individuals. While numerous studies have reported female choice for older males, few have explicitly examined the fitness consequences of such a preference. We present evidence from a lekking sandfly, Lutzomyia longipalpis , showing that choosy females discriminate against older males and gain a fitness benefit from their choice. When permitted free choice from an aggregation consisting of males aged zero to two days (young), four to six days (middle-aged) and eight to ten days (old), females preferentially mated with middle-aged males, but all measures of female reproductive success were independent of male age. In contrast, when a second set of females was randomly assigned single virgin males of known age, the eggs of those paired to old mates exhibited lower hatching success than the eggs of females mated to young or middle-aged males. These results suggest that females avoid mating with older males because they represent poorer quality mates. Age-related differences in male quality may have a genetic basis, but could equally well arise through a phenotypic decline in sperm quality or sperm transfer ability with male age. The lack of evidence of female discrimination against older males from other studies may be because these did not explore the reproductive success of the full age range of males. \ud \u
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