Population consequences of maternal effects: sex-bias in egg-laying order facilitates divergence in sexual dimorphism between bird populations


Correspondence and present address: A. V. Badyaev, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721 USA. e-mail: abadyaev@selway.umt.edu


Abstract When costs and benefits of raising sons and daughters differ between environments, parents may be selected to modify their investment into male and female offspring. In two recently colonized environments, breeding female house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) modified the sex and growth of their offspring in relation to the order in which eggs were laid in a clutch. Here we show that, in both populations, these maternal effects strongly biased frequency distribution of tarsus size of fully grown males and females and ultimately produced population divergence in this trait. Although in each population, male and female offspring show a wide range of growth patterns, maternal modifications of sex-ratio in relation to egg-laying order resulted in under-representation of the morphologies that were selected against and over-representation of morphologies that were favoured by the local selection on juveniles. The result of these maternal adjustments was fast phenotypic change in sexual size dimorphism within and between populations. Maternal manipulations of offspring morphologies may be especially important at the initial stages of population establishment in the novel environments and may have facilitated recent colonization of much of North America by the house finch.