Fitness benefits of male dominance behaviours depend on the degree of individual inbreeding in a polyandrous lizard

In polyandrous species, sexual selection extends beyond mating competition to selection for egg fertilization. As a result, the degree to which factors influencing mating success impact overall reproductive success becomes variable. Here, we used a longitudinal behavioural and genetic dataset for a population of eastern water dragons (Intellagama lesueurii) to investigate the degree to which male dominance, a pre-mating selection trait, influences overall reproductive success, measured as the number of surviving offspring. Moreover, we examine the interactive effects with a genetic trait, individual inbreeding, known to influence the reproductive success of males in this species. We found fitness benefits of male dominance, measured as body size and frequency of dominance behaviours displayed. However, individuals’ propensity to display dominance behaviours had mixed effects, depending on the degree of inbreeding. While inbred males benefited from frequent displays, highly outbred males exhibited better reproductive outputs when displaying to a lesser extent. Given that outbred males have enhanced reproductive success in this species, the costs of displaying dominance behaviours may outweigh the benefits. Overall, our results demonstrate the fitness benefits of dominance in a polyandrous lizard, and suggest that these are modulated by an independent genetic trait. Our results may contribute to explaining the presence of alternative mating tactics in this species, owing to the variability in net fitness benefits of dominance. Our findings also reveal the challenges associated with investigating fitness traits in isolation, which may undermine the validity of results when important interactions are ignored.