• colour polymorphism;
  • genetic correlations;
  • genetic variance;
  • genotype–environment interaction;
  • heritability;
  • male colour;
  • male size


Male guppies (Poecilia reticulata) exhibit extreme phenotypic and genetic variability for several traits that are important to male fitness, and several lines of evidence suggest that resource level affects phenotypic expression of these traits in nature. We tested the hypothesis that genetic variation for male secondary sex traits could be maintained by genotype-specific effects of variable resource levels (genotype–environment interaction). To do this, we measured genetic variation and covariation under two environmental conditions – relatively low and relatively high food availability. We found high levels of genetic variation for most traits, but we only found a significant G × E interaction across food levels for one trait (body size) for one population. The across-environment correlations for size were large and positive, indicating that the reaction norms for size did not cross. We also found that male colour pattern elements had nearly an order of magnitude more genetic variation than did male size. Heritability estimates indicated that Y-linked genes are responsible for some of the genetic variation in male size and colour traits. We discuss implications of these results for theories of the maintenance of genetic variation in male secondary sexual traits in guppies.