An experimental test for alternative reproductive strategies underlying a female-limited polymorphism


Robert Cox, Dartmouth College, Biological Sciences, 401 Gilman Hall, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.
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Polymorphism often corresponds to alternative mating tactics in males, but much less is known about this relationship in females. However, recent work suggests that selection for alternative reproductive strategies in females can maintain genetic variation in important life-history traits. Brown anole lizards (Anolis sagrei) exhibit a genetically based polymorphism in dorsal pattern that is expressed only by females, which occur in bar (B), diamond (D) and intermediate diamond–bar (DB) morphs. Here, we use a combination of natural history data, captive breeding studies and phenotypic manipulations of reproductive investment to test the hypothesis that this polymorphism corresponds to morph-specific patterns of reproductive investment. Three years of data from wild females and two generations of captive breeding revealed no differences among morphs in the frequency of egg production or in the number, frequency, size or sex ratio of offspring. Manipulations of reproductive investment via surgical ovariectomy revealed significant costs of reproduction with respect to survival, growth, immune function and haematocrit, but the magnitudes of these costs did not differ among morphs. Collectively, our results refute the hypothesis that this sex-limited polymorphism is maintained by selection for alternative reproductive strategies. We compare this finding to other systems in which polymorphic females exhibit alternative reproductive tactics and discuss other selective factors that could maintain polymorphism in anoles.