We studied sexual size dimorphism, intrasexual competition, and sexual selection in an individually marked population of Wattled Jacanas (Jacana jacana) in the Republic of Panama. Males are the sole incubators of eggs (28-day incubation) and primary providers of chick care (50–60 days). Females were 48% heavier than, and behaviorally dominant over, males. Females also showed greater development of secondary sexual characters (fleshy facial ornamentation and wing spurs) than males. Both sexes defended territories throughout the year against same-sex conspecifics. Competition for territorial space was intense, and many individuals of both sexes did not become breeders. Resident females further competed with one another to accumulate multiple mates, resulting in a mating system of simultaneous polyandry. Female and male residents (territory holders) were larger, heavier, and more ornamented than adult floaters of the same sex. Larger and heavier females also had more mates than smaller females. Body size was thus a critical predictor of success in intrasexual competition for territories (both sexes) and for mates (females). Three measures of sexual selection—(1) sex difference in the opportunity for sexual selection, (2) female-to-male ratio of potential reproductive rates, and (3) operational sex ratio—each indicated that sexual selection is currently operating more strongly on females than on males (female-to-male ratios ranged from 1.43:1 to 2.22:1). Values of 1.61:1 and 1.43:1 represent the first published quantitative estimates of the opportunity for sexual selection for any sex-role-reversed bird. Our study supports the theory that when increased parental care entails reduced opportunities for future reproduction, asymmetries in parental care behaviors of the sexes can influence the intensity of competition for mates and the direction and strength of sexual selection.
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Vol. 121 • No. 2