Evidence for genetic integration of mating behavior and morphology in a behaviorally plastic alternative reproductive tactic

Melissa N. Liotta, Shasta Kamara, Jessica K. Abbott, Oscar Rios-Cardenas, Molly R. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) often exhibit more than one mating behavior depending on social context (i.e., behavioral plasticity). It has been hypothesized that by constraining an ART from reaching optimal morphological states, intralocus tactical conflict could promote the maintenance of behavioral plasticity in ARTs, rather than the use of a fixed mating behavior to match an optimal morphological state. For selection on either behavior or morphology to influence one another, there would need to be genetic integration between these traits within the behaviorally plastic males. To examine this possibility, we compared the relationship between body shape, body size and propensity to use sneak-chase behavior across experienced wild-caught males and inexperienced lab reared males from the behaviorally plastic ART (sneaker males) of the swordtail fish Xiphophorus multilineatus. The smaller, more narrow-bodied sneaker males use both force copulatory sneak-chases and courtship behavior to access females, while the larger, deeper-bodied courter males are fixed in their use of courtship behavior. We detected similar relationships between body size and the propensity to use sneak-chase behavior within the sneaker males when they were alone with a female (no competitor present) for both experienced and inexperienced males, suggesting genetic integration between behavior and body size. Body shape, on the other hand, was more complex and suggested both genetic integration (more fusiform males from both groups were more likely to use sneak-chase), as well as learning depending on subtle differences in body shape. We discuss how intralocus tactical conflict on morphological traits that are genetically integrated with behaviors has the potential to maintain behavioral plasticity in the X. multilineatus sneaker males and influence the evolution of ARTs in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-737
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Volume35
Issue number44687
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology

Keywords

  • Alternative reproductive tactics
  • Behavioral plasticity
  • Genetic integration
  • Xiphophorus multilineatus

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