Both female choice and male-male competition may take place during reproduction in many species. Female choice tends to be less obvious than male-male competition and consequently has received less attention from researchers. The opportunity for cryptic female choice arises after multiple insemination. Through postcopulatory processes, a female could alter the pattern of paternity among her offspring so that it does not directly reflect the different contributions of sperm made by her mates. To be able to determine if a female alters the relative sperm contributions of her mates, the behaviors and influences of the males must therefore be first taken into account. The interest of each male is to father all the offspring, and the interest of each female is to maximize paternal quality. Female yellow dung flies have complex internal reproductive tracts that may give them considerable control over the fertilization success of stored sperm from different males. In laboratory trials to date, the last male to mate has usually been most successful. In the present study, cryptic choice occurred in Scathophaga stercoraria and the pattern of choice was consistent with previously reported results. The fertilization success of a female's second mate (P2) was substantially larger if a female was kept at constant temperature and if the second male was genetically similar to her at the phosphoglucomutase (Pgm) locus. Females from the field normally have three spermathecae, but some have four. Lines were bred to have either three or four spermathecae. Flies from the different lines were crossed to generate females with similar genetic backgrounds that had either three or four spermathecae. P2 was significantly lower for high-quality females, that is, those that laid larger-than-average-clutches, with four spermathecae than for low-quality females with four spermathecae; female quality had no influence on P2 for females with three spermathecae. The results suggest that only large females may benefit from increased spermathecae number by being able to act against male interests. Females may only have three spermathecae, even though genetic variation for more is present, because selection for more spermathecae is weak.
Corresponding Editor: D. Wheeler