Mating with showy males may reduce offspring’s ability to fight off pathogens

January 10, 2007

In many animals, males advertise to potential mates with showy traits, many of which are linked to testosterone levels. However, a new study suggests that, in fish, choosing a flashier mate may cause future generations to be more susceptible to pathogens.

In the January 2007 issue of The American Naturalist, a new study by Judith Mank (Uppsala University, Sweden) finds that mating with males who possess showy traits – such as bright colors or long tails and fins – results in higher testosterone levels in males over many generations. Because male and female testosterone levels are correlated, female choice also results in an increase in female testosterone levels.

Testosterone is an immune suppressor, and increases in testosterone can reduce an animal's ability to fight off diseases. Therefore, a female's choice of a male with exaggerated ornaments may make her daughters and granddaughters less able to resist pathogens, Mank argues.

However, there may be some benefits for the females. For example, females are larger than males in many fish species, perhaps because of the requisite energetic burdens of producing massive amounts of roe, and elevated testosterone increases body size.

Thus, as Mank writes: "The benefits of increased body size to roe production and mate selection may, at least in some cases, counter the immunosuppressive effects of elevated testosterone in females."

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

Explore further: Late-hatched canaries learn their songs as well as early-hatched birds

Related Stories

You're as old as your stem cells

June 4, 2015

A special issue of Cell Stem Cell published on June 4 includes a collection of reviews and perspectives on the biology of aging.

Marsupial mating habits to die for

June 1, 2015

Queensland scientists have discovered two more species of suicidally-sexed carnivorous marsupials and one is already destined for the threatened list.

Recommended for you

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.