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


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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Figure 1: Nymph survival and adult longevity in the high- (blue line), medium- (black) and low-protein (red) diet treatments.
Figure 2: Reproductive effort and body weight of males in the high- (closed circles, blue line), medium- (open squares, black line) and low-protein (triangles, red line) diet treatments.
Figure 3: The relationships between longevity and early, late and mean nightly calling effort in the high- (closed circles, blue line), medium- (open squares, black line) and low-protein (triangles, red line) diet treatments (see Supplementary Information).
Figure 4: The number of females responding to a call in the field is positively correlated with the amount of time that the call is broadcast for.


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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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Correspondence to John Hunt.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Methods

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

Supplementary Tables

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

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Hunt, J., Brooks, R., Jennions, M. et al. High-quality male field crickets invest heavily in sexual display but die young. Nature 432, 1024–1027 (2004).

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