Females, by mating with more than one male in their lifetime, may reduce their risk of receiving sperm from genetically incompatible sires or increase their prospects of obtaining sperm from genetically superior sires. Although there is evidence of both kinds of genetic benefits in crickets, their relative importance remains unclear, and the extent to which experimentally manipulated levels of polyandry in the laboratory correspond to those that occur in nature remain unknown. We measured lifetime polyandry of free-living female decorated crickets, Gryllodes sigillatus, and conducted an experiment to determine whether polyandry leads to an increase in offspring viability. We experimentally manipulated both the levels of polyandry and opportunities for females to select among males, randomly allocating the offspring of experimental females to high-food-stress or low-food-stress regimes to complete their development. Females exhibited a high degree of polyandry, mating on average with more than seven different males during their lifetime and up to as many as 15. Polyandry had no effect on either the developmental time or survival of offspring. However, polyandrous females produced significantly heavier sons than those of monandrous females, although there was no difference in the adult mass of daughters. There was no significant interaction between mating treatment and offspring nutritional regimen in their effects on offspring mass, suggesting that benefits accruing to female polyandry are independent of the environment in which offspring develop. The sex difference in the extent to which male and female offspring benefit via their mother's polyandry may reflect possible differences in the fitness returns from sons and daughters. The larger mass gain shown by sons of polyandrous females probably leads to their increased reproductive success, either because of their increased success in sperm competition or because of their increased life span.
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