Reproductive Trade-Offs and Direct Costs for Males in Arthropods

Inon Scharf*, Franziska Peter, Oliver Y. Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Until 30 years ago, the emphasis on reproductive costs for males was mainly on costs related to mate searching, courtship and fighting with rival males. However, costs for males are substantial and varied and often resemble the more thoroughly studied female reproductive costs. Costs can be referred to as trade-off costs, where investment in reproductive activity comes at the expense of another important activity or fitness component. Investment in reproduction at the expense of longevity and future reproduction is the ultimate cost, because it affects fitness directly. In contrast, flawed performance (e.g., of the immune system) is perceived as a mechanistic trade-off, because it affects fitness indirectly through a mediator (i.e., parasites). Finally, direct costs refer to direct measurements of the energy expenditure during involvement in reproduction-related activities. Both direct and mechanistic trade-off costs often result in decreased longevity compared to unmated males (an ultimate cost). Males incur costs during different reproductive phases: before copulation, when producing sperm, while searching for, courting and copulating with females, and subsequently when guarding females or taking care of offspring. This synthesis follows previous pioneering reviews addressing specific aspects of male costs, but strives to summarize all known male reproductive cost types more comprehensively, including their classification. We suggest several directions for targeted future research. While costs for males have been fairly well described, it is now necessary to uncover the ecological and evolutionary factors responsible for differences between closely related species and systems and to better link between directly-measured costs, mechanistic trade-off costs and ultimate trade-off costs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-184
Number of pages16
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013


FundersFunder number
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung31003A_125144/1, PZ00P3_121777/1, PZ00P3_137514/1


    • Competition
    • Homosexual interactions
    • Metabolic rate
    • Missed-opportunity cost
    • Sexual conflict
    • Sexual selection


    Dive into the research topics of 'Reproductive Trade-Offs and Direct Costs for Males in Arthropods'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this