Genotype-by-environment interactions underlie the expression of pre- and post-copulatory sexually selected traits in guppies

Jon Evans, Mahmudur Rahman, Clelia Gasparini

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    © 2015 European Society For Evolutionary Biology. The role that genotype-by-environment interactions (GEIs) play in sexual selection has only recently attracted the attention of evolutionary biologists. Yet GEIs can have profound evolutionary implications by compromising the honesty of sexual signals, maintaining high levels of genetic variance underlying their expression and altering the patterns of genetic covariance among fitness traits. In this study, we test for GEIs in a highly sexually dimorphic freshwater fish, the guppy Poecilia reticulata. We conducted an experimental quantitative genetic study in which male offspring arising from a paternal half-sibling breeding design were assigned to differing nutritional 'environments' (either high or low feed levels). We then determined whether the manipulation of diet quantity influenced levels of additive genetic variance and covariance for several highly variable and condition-dependent pre- and post-copulatory sexual traits. In accordance with previous work, we found that dietary limitation had strong phenotypic effects on numerous pre- and post-copulatory sexual traits. We also report evidence for significant GEI for several of these traits, which in some cases (area of iridescence and sperm velocity) reflected a change in the rank order of genotypes across different nutritional environments (i.e. ecological crossover). Furthermore, we show that genetic correlations vary significantly between nutritional environments. Notably, a highly significant negative genetic correlation between iridescent coloration and sperm viability in the high food treatment broke down under dietary restriction. Taken together, these findings are likely to have important evolutionary implications for guppies; ecological crossover may influence sexual signal reliability in unstable (nutritional) environments and contribute towards the extreme levels of polymorphism in sexual traits typically reported for this species. Furthermore, the presence of environment-specific genetic covariance suggests that trade-offs measured in one environment may not be indicative of genetic constraints in others.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)959-972
    JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
    Issue number4
    Early online date17 Apr 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


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