The prevalence and evolutionary consequences of cryptic female choice (CFC) remain highly controversial, not least because the processes underlying its expression are often concealed within the female reproductive tract. However, even when female discrimination is relatively easy to observe, as in numerous insect species with externally attached spermatophores, it is often difficult to demonstrate directional CFC for certain male phenotypes over others. Using a biological assay to separate male crickets into attractive or unattractive categories, we demonstrate that females strongly discriminate against unattractive males by removing their spermatophores before insemination can be completed. This results in significantly more sperm being transferred by attractive males than unattractive males. Males respond to CFC by mate guarding females after copulation, which increases the spermatophore retention of both attractive and unattractive males. Interestingly, unattractive males who suffered earlier interruption of sperm transfer benefited more from mate guarding, and they guarded females more vigilantly than attractive males. Our results suggest that postcopulatory mate guarding has evolved via sexual conflict over insemination times rather than through genetic benefits of biasing paternity toward vigorous males, as has been previously suggested.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4