Unlucky in Love

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Science  14 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6113, pp. 1397
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6113.1397-a

Some anurans, members of an order of amphibians that includes frogs and toads, are explosive breeders—males aggregate to attract females and compete aggressively for mating opportunities. This results in multiple males attempting to mount a single female, which may cause the female's death from the excessive weight. From an evolutionary perspective, this seems counterproductive, but analysis of the frog Rhinella proboscadia by Izzo et al. suggests that this may not always be the case. Males of this species were able to extract the eggs from females that expired as a result of these intense competitions among males. Field observations confirmed that males could manipulate dead females to extract oocytes and that these oocytes could be fertilized to produce embryos. These findings suggest that in some male-biased systems, due to the scarcity of available females and the intense competition for access to reproduction among males, this behavior may allow for fitness gains in both the male and female participants. In fact, males may actually experience positive selection for functional necrophilia.

J. Nat. Hist. 10.1080/00222933.2012.724720 (2012).

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