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Lovers Beat Fighters in Winning Female Hearts, Beetle Study

Update Date: Apr 30, 2014 05:35 PM EDT

Lovers beat fighters when it comes to attracting female horned beetles, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Exeter and the Universities of Okayama and Tsukuba in Japan studied sexual conflict over mating in Gnatocerus cornutus, the horned flour-beetle.

While female mate choice and male-male competitions tend to be the drivers of sexual selection, the latest study reveals that these mechanisms don't always favor the same males.

While "fighter" male beetles with enlarged lower jaws or mandibles are better at fighting off rivals, the latest study reveals that females pick mates based on male courtship rather than jaw size. Researchers also noted that these two traits are not physically or genetically linked.

"A major finding of this study was that the most attractive males, those most preferred by females, were not the highly competitive males with large mandibles. This is despite the fact these fighter males enjoy significant mating advantages when in direct competition for females. Instead, females prefer to mate with males that court more. This shows that choice and competition favor different traits," researcher Prof. Dave Hosken, of the Center for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus, said in a news release.

The study looked at whether females benefit from their choice of mate. Researchers wanted to see how mate choice influenced female and offspring health.

While reproducing with more attractive and competitive males did not have direct benefits, it did lead to more attractive and competitive sons.

The study "Sexual conflict over mating in Gnatocerus cornutus? Females prefer lovers not fighters," was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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