SPM Journal Club: Sex differences in morphology affecting fitness
Recent work has highlighted the importance of including individual heterogeneity into population models. This includes both traits that are fixed over the lifespan of an individual (e.g. morphology, genotype) and characteristics that change over time (e.g. age, body conditions). How influential such traits are for individual fitness (and population dynamics), may however depend on sex.
We discuss a recent paper looking into sex-differences in how fixed and dynamic individual heterogeneity affects reproductive success in the Eurasian Hoopoe:
"Sex-Specific Heterogeneity in Fixed Morphological Traits Influences Individual Fitness in a Monogamous Bird Population"
(Plard et al. 2017, The American Naturalist)
Theoretical work has emphasized the important role of individual traits on population dynamics, but empirical models are often based on average or stage-dependent demographic rates. In this study on a monogamous bird, the Eurasian hoopoe (Upupa epops), we show how the interactions between male and female fixed and dynamic heterogeneity influence demographic rates and population dynamics. We built an integral projection model including individual sex, age, condition (reflecting dynamic heterogeneity), and fixed morphology (reflecting fixed heterogeneity). Fixed morphology was derived from a principal component analysis of six morphological traits. Our results revealed that reproductive success and survival were linked to fixed heterogeneity, whereas dynamic heterogeneity influenced mainly the timing of reproduction. Fixed heterogeneity had major consequences for the population growth rate, but interestingly, its effect on population dynamics differed between the sexes. Female fixed morphology was directly linked to annual reproductive success, whereas male fixed morphology also influenced annual survival, being twice higher in large than in small males. Even in a monogamous bird with shared parental care, large males can reach 10% higher fitness than females. Including the dynamics of male and female individual traits in population models refines our understanding of the individual mechanisms that influence demographic rates and population dynamics and can help in identifying differences in sex-specific strategies.