The effects of sexual selection on life-history traits: an experimental study on guppies

Authors

  • C. Pélabon,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
    • Correspondence: Christophe Pélabon, Department of Biology, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway.

      Tel.: +47 735 90339; fax: +47 735 96100;

      e-mail: christophe.pelabon@ntnu.no

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  • L.-K. Larsen,

    1. Department of Biology, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
    2. Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre, Trondheim, Norway
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  • G. H. Bolstad,

    1. Department of Biology, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
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  • Å. Viken,

    1. Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre, Trondheim, Norway
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  • I. A. Fleming,

    1. Department of Ocean Sciences, Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NF, Canada
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  • G. Rosenqvist

    1. Department of Biology, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
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Abstract

Sexual selection is often prevented during captive breeding in order to maximize effective population size and retain genetic diversity. However, enforcing monogamy and thereby preventing sexual selection may affect population fitness either negatively by preventing the purging of deleterious mutations or positively by reducing sexual conflicts. To better understand the effect of sexual selection on the fitness of small populations, we compared components of female fitness and the expression of male secondary sexual characters in 19 experimental populations of guppies (Poecilia reticulata) maintained under polygamous or monogamous mating regimes over nine generations. In order to generate treatments that solely differed by their level of sexual selection, the middle-class neighbourhood breeding design was enforced in the monogamous populations, while in the polygamous populations, all females contributed similarly to the next generation with one male and one female offspring. This experimental design allowed potential sexual conflicts to increase in the polygamous populations because selection could not operate on adult-female traits. Clutch size and offspring survival showed a weak decline from generation to generation but did not differ among treatments. Offspring size, however, declined across generations, but more in monogamous than polygamous populations. By generation eight, orange- and black-spot areas were larger in males from the polygamous treatment, but these differences were not statistically significant. Overall, these results suggest that neither sexual conflict nor the purging of deleterious mutation had important effects on the fitness of our experimental populations. However, only few generations of enforced monogamy in a benign environment were sufficient to negatively affect offspring size, a trait potentially crucial for survival in the wild. Sexual selection may therefore, under certain circumstances, be beneficial over enforced monogamy during captive breeding.

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