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Quantifying sexual selection: a comparison of competing indices with mating system data from a terrestrially breeding salamander



    Corresponding author
    1. Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802, USA
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148, USA
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    • Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, PO Box 210088, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.



Calculations for quantifying the potential for sexual selection remain controversial. Many indices have been promoted in the literature, but each has unique sets of advantages and disadvantages. Using marbled salamanders, I evaluated the performance of several measures by manipulating intensity of sexual selection in experimental breeding replicates of varying operational sex ratio. Theory predicts that sexual selection among males will be higher when sex ratio is male-biased and lower when female-biased. I used microsatellite data to assign hatchling parentage, estimate adult fitness, and calculate several indices of inequality for quantifying sexual selection. Opportunity for selection and Morisita index always conformed to theoretical expectations, which was not the case for index of resource monopolization, standardized Morisita index, or binomial skew index. Although I conclude that opportunity for selection is advantageous in sexual selection studies because of its link to formal theory, this should be tested against the null hypothesis of random variation in ambiguous cases. In the present study, although variation in both reproductive and mating success was high when quantified using opportunities for selection, it was only significantly greater than random expectations for reproductive success. This study provides further empirical support for the continued use of opportunity for selection in sexual selection studies. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 99, 73–83.