Mating tactics determine patterns of condition dependence in a dimorphic horned beetle

The persistence of genetic variability in performance traits such as strength is surprising given the directional selection that such traits experience, which should cause the fixation of the best genetic variants. One possible explanation is ‘genic capture’ which is usually considered as a candidate mechanism for the maintenance of high genetic variability in sexual signalling traits. This states that if a trait is ‘condition dependent’, with expression being strongly influenced by the bearer's overall viability, then genetic variability can be maintained via mutation-selection balance. Using a species of dimorphic beetle with males that gain matings either by fighting or by ‘sneaking’, we tested the prediction of strong condition dependence for strength, walking speed and testes mass. Strength was strongly condition dependent only in those beetles that fight for access to females. Walking speed, with less of an obvious selective advantage, showed no condition dependence, and testes mass was more condition dependent in sneaks, which engage in higher levels of sperm competition. Within a species, therefore, condition dependent expression varies between morphs, and corresponds to the specific selection pressures experienced by that morph. These results support genic capture as a general explanation for the maintenance of genetic variability in traits under directional selection.

Published Mar. 6, 2012 1:54 PM - Last modified May 10, 2012 9:19 AM