Genotype × environment interaction, environmental heterogeneity and the lek paradox


Michael D. Greenfield, Institut de recherche sur la biologie de l’insecte (IRBI), CNRS UMR 7126, Université François Rabelais de Tours, 37200 Tours, France.
Tel.: +33 02 47 36 7444; fax: +33 02 47 36 6966; e-mail:


Substantial additive genetic variance (VA) often exists for male signalling traits in spite of the directional selection that female choice imposes. One solution to this problem, a conundrum generally termed the ‘lek paradox’, is that genotype × environment interaction (GEI) occurs and generates a ‘crossover’ of reaction norms in which no one genotype performs in a superior manner in all environments. Theoretical work indicates that such crossover can sustain genetic variance provided that either (i) spatial heterogeneity in environmental conditions combined with limited migration among populations or (ii) temporal heterogeneity in environmental conditions combined with occasional generation overlap is present. Whereas some recent studies have revealed the intersection of reaction norms for sexually selected traits in laboratory and in natural populations, associated information on environmental heterogeneity, migration and generation overlap has not been investigated. We studied this question in an acoustic pyralid moth, Achroia grisella, in which previous work indicated GEI and crossover of reaction norms for several parameters of the male song evaluated by females. We measured reaction norms for male song as expressed when development was completed under different environmental conditions in four neighbouring, yet isolated, populations during 1 year and in one of these populations during consecutive years. Crossover occurred for the various song parameters in the several populations, but we did not observe a higher incidence of crossover between genotypes taken from two different populations than from the same population. However, for several key song parameters, crossover between genotypes taken from two different years was higher than that between genotypes from the same year. We suggest that temporal heterogeneity in the form of varying selection could potentially conserve VA in A. grisella, but we also note other factors that might contribute.