Letter | Published:

High-quality male field crickets invest heavily in sexual display but die young

Naturevolume 432pages10241027 (2004) | Download Citation



Only high-quality males can bear the costs of an extreme sexual display1,2,3,4. As a consequence, such males are not only more attractive, but they often live longer than average5. Recent theory predicts, however, that high-quality males should sometimes invest so heavily in sexual displays that they die sooner than lower quality males2,6,7,8,9. We manipulated the phenotypic quality of field crickets, Teleogryllus commodus, by altering the protein content of their diet. Here we show that nymphs and adult females reared on a high-protein diet lived longer than those on a low-protein diet. In contrast, adult males reared on a high-protein diet died sooner than those on low-protein diets because they invested more energy in calling during early adulthood. Our findings uphold the theoretical prediction that the relationship between longevity and sexual advertisement may be dynamic2,3,6,7,8 (that is, either positive or negative), depending on local conditions3,6 such as resource availability. Moreover, they caution the use of longevity as a proxy for fitness in sexual selection studies, and suggest avenues for future research on the relationship between sexual attractiveness and ageing.

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We are grateful to S. Bertram for advice on the construction of the call-monitoring device. Thanks to J. Evans, S. Griffith, D. Gwynne, M. Head, T. Ivy, H. Kokko, J. Kotiaho and A. Lindholm for discussions and help in the field. J.H., R.B. and M.D.J. were funded by an ARC grant and L.F.B. by a NSERC Fellowship.

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Author notes

    • Michael J. Smith

    Present address: Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, 123 Brown Street, Heidelberg, Victoria, 3084, Australia


  1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, 2052, Australia

    • John Hunt
    • , Robert Brooks
    • , Michael J. Smith
    • , Caroline L. Bentsen
    •  & Luc F. Bussière
  2. School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia

    • Michael D. Jennions


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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to John Hunt.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Methods

    Further methodological information and details of statistical analyses. (DOC 122 kb)

  2. Supplementary Tables

    Four tables containing full details of statistical analyses referred to in the manuscript. (DOC 79 kb)

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