A hermaphroditic individual that prefers to outbreed but that has the potential of selfing faces a dilemma: in the absence of a partner, should it wait for one to arrive or should it produce offspring by selfing? Recent theory on this question suggests that the evolutionary solution is to find an optimal delay of reproduction that balances the potential benefit of outcrossing and the cost of delaying the onset of reproduction. Assuming that resources retained from breeding can be reallocated to future reproduction, isolated individuals, compared with individuals with available mates, are predicted to delay their age at first reproduction to wait for future outcrossing. Here, I present empirical support for this idea with experimental data from the hermaphroditic cestode Schistocephalus solidus. I show that individuals breeding alone delay their reproduction and initially produce their eggs at a slow rate relative to cestodes breeding in pairs. This delay is partly compensated for by a later higher egg production, although singly breeding cestodes still pay a cost of overall lower egg production.
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Vol. 58 • No. 11