For species in which mating is resource-independent and offspring do not receive parental care, theoretical models of age-based female mate preference predict that females should prefer to mate with older males as they have demonstrated ability to survive. Thus, females should obtain a fitness benefit from mating with older males. However, male aging is often associated with reductions in quantity of sperm. The adaptive significance of age-based mate choice is therefore unclear. Various hypotheses have made conflicting predictions concerning this issue, because published studies have not investigated the effect of age on accessory gland proteins and sperm traits. D. melanogaster exhibits resource-independent mating, and offspring do not receive parental care, making this an appropriate model for studying age-based mate choice. In the present study, we found that D. melanogaster females of all ages preferred to mate with the younger of two competing males. Young males performed significantly greater courtship attempts and females showed least rejection for the same than middle-aged and old males. Young males had small accessory glands that contained very few main cells that were larger than average. Nevertheless, compared with middle-aged or old males, the young males transferred greater quantities of accessory gland proteins and sperm to mated females. As a result, females that mated with young male produced more eggs and progeny than those that mated with older males. Furthermore, mating with young male reduced female's lifespan. These studies indicate that quantity of accessory gland proteins and sperm traits decreased with male age and females obtain direct fitness benefit from mating with preferred young males.
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Vol. 32 • No. 1