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Theory predicts that the evolution of polyphenic variation is facilitated where morphs are genetically uncoupled and free to evolve towards their phenotypic optima. However, the assumption that developmentally plastic morphs can evolve independently has not been tested directly. Using morph-specific artificial selection, we investigated correlated evolution between the sexes and male morphs of the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus echinopus. Large ‘fighter’ males have a thick and sharply terminating pair of legs used to kill rival males, while small ‘scrambler’ males have unmodified legs, and search for unguarded females, avoiding fights. We selected on the relative leg width of only the fighter male morph, tracked the evolutionary responses in fighters and the correlated evolutionary responses in scramblers and females that were untouched by direct selection. Fighters diverged in relative leg thickness after six generations; assaying scramblers and females at the ninth generation we observed correlated responses in relative leg width in both. Our results represent strong evidence for the evolution of intraspecific phenotypic diversity despite correlated evolution between morphs and sexes, challenging the idea that male morphs are genetically uncoupled and free to independently respond to selection. We therefore question the perceived necessity for genetic independence in traits with extreme phenotypic plasticity.
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 16 May 2018|
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- 2 Finished
1/01/15 → 31/12/17
1/01/11 → 31/12/17