The juvenile social environment introduces variation in the choice and expression of sexually selected traits

Authors

  • Michael M. Kasumovic,

    1. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney 2052 NSW, Australia
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  • Matthew D. Hall,

    1. Zoologisches Institut, University of Basel, Basel CH-4051, Switzerland
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  • Robert C. Brooks

    1. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney 2052 NSW, Australia
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  • Supported by ARC grants and fellowships to M. M. K. and R. B.

  • Ecology and Evolution 2012; 2(5): 1036–1047

Michael M. Kasumovic, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney 2052 NSW, Australia. Tel: +61 (0)2 9385 8091; Fax: +61 (0)2 9385 1558; E-mail: m.kasumovic@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

The juvenile environment provides numerous cues of the intensity of competition and the availability of mates in the near environment. As research demonstrates that the developing individuals can use these cues to alter their developmental trajectories, and therefore, adult phenotypes, we examined whether social cues available during development can affect the expression and the preference of sexually selected traits. To examine this, we used the Australian black field cricket (Telogryllus commodus), a species where condition at maturity is known to affect both male calling effort and female choice. We mimicked different social environments by rearing juveniles in two different densities crossed with three different calling environments. We demonstrate that the social environment affected female response speed but not preference, and male age-specific calling effort (especially the rate of senescence in calling effort) but not the structural/temporal parameters of calls. These results demonstrate that the social environment can introduce variation in sexually selected traits by modifying the behavioral components of male production and female choice, suggesting that the social environment may be an overlooked source of phenotypic variation. We discuss the plasticity of trait expression and preference in reference to estimations of male quality and the concept of condition dependence.

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