The role of sexual selection in adaptation to novel environments and the effects of environmental change on sexual selection
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Sexual selection is ubiquitous in all sexually reproducing species and a powerful evolutionary force. The effect of sexual selection on population fitness has caused wide debate and has been proposed to both enhance adaptation rates, but also possibly increase extinction risk. Using experimental evolution, the strength of sexual selection was altered by biasing adult sex ratios in replicated populations of the Indian meal moth, Plodia interpunctella. Under increasing temperatures strong sexual selection and polyandry was associated with increased population fitness. Suggesting sexual selection could provide a buffer against climate change by increasing adaptation rates. However, no effect on male mating success was observed. In contrast, under stable temperatures male mating success was increased by strong sexual selection, however, this did not translate to increased population fitness. These results indicate that female choice is a potentially strong selective pressure in P. interpunctella. Moreover, under stabilising and directional selection the costs and benefits of sexual selection change. In a field study, dung beetle species richness and abundance were compared across a gradient of habitat disturbance, ranging from old-growth rainforest to oil palm plantation. Species persistence within altered habitats was positively associated with expressing horns and relative horn lengths, suggesting male-male competition increases a species ability to persist within modified landscapes. There was not a strong effect of relative testes mass or sexual size dimorphism on the abundance of species. Additionally, by examining the expression of sexually selected traits within species, horn length and testes mass appear to be condition dependent, but only the expression of horns was effected by habitat change. Overall, from both laboratory and field studies it was found that sexual selection can increase adaptation rates and the persistence of species within altered and changing environments. Moreover, both sets of studies suggest pre-copulatory sexual selection to be an important aspect of sexual selection in driving this adaptation.
AuthorsParrett, Jonathan Michael
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