In many species large males have more mating success than small males, either because females find them more attractive or because they can use their brawn to intimidate small rivals. They are also more likely to have more sexual partners and be less committed fathers.
However, a new study by the University of Exeter has revealed that female burying beetles are more attracted to small partners because their chances of indulging in fights are less.
‘Surprisingly, small males were observed to be more successful than large males at attracting a female partner to the carcass. Researchers believe that this is because they attracted less competition and potential for squabbles.’
Researchers observed that while small male beetles were more successful at attracting female mates to the breeding ground of an animal carcass than larger males, they didn't make better parents. During the study, the researchers tested whether individual male burying beetles known for being exceptionally good parents in the insect world would help look after their current family for longer if they had clues that it might be difficult to find or compete for other mates.
Unexpectedly, small males were more successful than large males at attracting a female partner to the carcass than a male rival and researchers believe that this is because they attracted less competition and potential for squabbles.
Dr. Paul Hopwood said, "These results showed that by being choosy about their males; female burying beetles might avoid complicated relationships involving male fights and extra female competitors. The apparent allure of small males also led to them breeding more often in faithful pairs than larger males."
The research is published in Evolutionary Biology.