Rapid loss of behavioral plasticity and immunocompetence under intense sexual selection

Emile Van Lieshout, Kathryn Mcnamara, Leigh Simmons

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2014 The Society for the Study of Evolution. Phenotypic plasticity allows animals to maximize fitness by conditionally expressing the phenotype best adapted to their environment. Although evidence for such adjustment in reproductive tactics is common, little is known about how phenotypic plasticity evolves in response to sexual selection. We examined the effect of sexual selection intensity on phenotypic plasticity in mating behavior using the beetle Callosobruchus maculatus. Male genital spines harm females during mating and females exhibit copulatory kicking, an apparent resistance trait aimed to dislodge mating males. After exposing individuals from male- and female-biased experimental evolution lines to male- and female-biased sociosexual environments, we examined behavioral plasticity in matings with standard partners. While females from female-biased lines kicked sooner after exposure to male-biased sociosexual contexts, in male-biased lines this plasticity was lost. Ejaculate size did not diverge in response to selection history, but males from both treatments exhibited plasticity consistent with sperm competition intensity models, reducing size as the number of competitors increased. Analysis of immunocompetence revealed reduced immunity in both sexes in male-biased lines, pointing to increased reproductive costs under high sexual selection. These results highlight how male and female reproductive strategies are shaped by interactions between phenotypically plastic and genetic mechanisms of sexual trait expression.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2550-2558
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


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