The occurrence of alternative reproductive phenotypes is widespread in most animal taxa. The majority of known examples best fit the notion of alternative tactics within a conditional strategy where the fitness pay-offs depend on an individual's competitive ability or status. Individuals are proposed as 'choosing' the tactic that maximizes their fitness, given their status relative to others in the population. Theoretically, status-dependent selection should determine when an animal should switch between alternative tactics. While a number of studies have demonstrated unequal fitness pay-offs associated with alternative tactics, none, to our knowledge, have examined the fitness functions necessary for predicting when individuals should switch between tactics. Here, we use a dimorphic male beetle in order to provide the first empirically derived fitness function across alternative reproductive phenotypes. Our data provide empirical support for a game-theoretic conditional strategy that has evolved under status-dependent selection.
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