Does past reproductive success influence subsequent reproductive performance?
An important continuing question in sexual selection is what factors determine female mate preferences. In species with exclusive male parental care, females of some species have been shown to prefer males with existing broods perhaps because of the benefits provided to offspring by high quality paternal care. However, how general this pattern is, has yet to be established. We assessed female mate preferences of a glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium orientale tobagoense) with exclusive male parental care by monitoring males at their calling sites both at the beginning of the rainy season (July) and at the end of the rainy season (November). Since males continue to call while guarding previous egg clutches, recent previous reproductive success was straightforward to determine. We documented the reproductive success of previously mated (n = 121) and previously unmated (n = 95) males over 1,919 frog-nights of observation. Our analysis indicated that late in the rainy season, there was no significant influence of previous reproductive success on female mate choice and unmated males actually had marginally higher reproductive success than previously mated males. However, early in the rainy season unmated males were strongly disfavored compared to males that were already guarding previous offspring. While our data support previous research in that females showed a preference for males with existing broods, this preference appears to change seasonally. Thus, the reproductive decisions that females make may be more nuanced than previously appreciated.