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Data for: The costs and benefits of polyandry in a sexually cannibalistic mantis

Cite this dataset

Burke, Nathan; Holwell, Gregory (2022). Data for: The costs and benefits of polyandry in a sexually cannibalistic mantis [Dataset]. Dryad.


Mating with more than one male often provides direct or indirect benefits to female fitness but can also increase the chance of injury and death. Costs of mating are expected to increase linearly with increasing mating number. But how such costs interact with benefits to determine the net payoff of mating multiply is not well understood. Using the highly cannibalistic Springbok mantis, Miomantis caffra, a species where females are stabbed in the abdomen by males during violent premating struggles that males initiate to avoid being cannibalised, we took an experimental approach to assess the economics of polyandry under the risk of external, male-inflicted injury. We predicted that females that mate multiply would be more likely to show abdominal injuries, have higher prereproductive mortality, produce fewer offspring, and be more likely to engage in pre-mating cannibalism to avoid unwanted matings. In line with our predictions, we found that the likelihood of abdominal injury was highest among females that mated at least once, and prereproductive death was highest among females that mated twice or three times. Virgin females completely avoided these costs and produced some offspring parthenogenetically but not enough to provide a net benefit. Although mating was better than not mating, there was no singularly optimal mating number: females that mated once and three times produced similarly high numbers of offspring from the first ootheca, which resulted in an intermediate trough in offspring production at two matings. We also found little evidence that cannibalism was deployed as a mate-avoidance strategy: females consistently attacked and consumed males regardless of how many times they mated or how long they were housed with males. Our results suggest the possibility of two distinct mating strategies in M. caffra, where females either mate at a lower frequency to minimise costs or at a higher frequency to maximise benefits. We discuss possible explanations for this bimodal pattern in offspring production.


University of Auckland