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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Environmental quality alters female costs and benefits of evolving under enforced monogamy

Vera M Grazer1, Marco Demont1, Łukasz Michalczyk2, Matthew JG Gage3 and Oliver Y Martin1*

Author Affiliations

1 ETH Zürich, Institute of Integrative Biology, D-USYS, Universitätsstrasse 16, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland

2 Department of Entomology, Institute of Zoology, Jagiellonian University, Gronostajowa 9, 30-387 Kraków, Poland

3 School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-21

Published: 5 February 2014

Abstract

Background

Currently many habitats suffer from quality loss due to environmental change. As a consequence, evolutionary trajectories might shift due to environmental effects and potentially increase extinction risk of resident populations. Nevertheless, environmental variation has rarely been incorporated in studies of sexual selection and sexual conflict, although local environments and individuals’ condition undoubtedly influence costs and benefits. Here, we utilise polyandrous and monogamous selection lines of flour beetles, which evolved in presence or absence of sexual selection for 39 generations. We specifically investigated effects of low vs. standard food quality (i.e. stressful vs. benign environments) on reproductive success of cross pairs between beetles from the contrasting female and male selection histories to assess gender effects driving fitness.

Results

We found a clear interaction of food quality, male selection history and female selection history. Monogamous females generally performed more poorly than polyandrous counterparts, but reproductive success was shaped by selection history of their mates and environmental quality. When monogamous females were paired with polyandrous males in the standard benign environment, females seemed to incur costs, possibly due to sexual conflict. In contrast, in the novel stressful environment, monogamous females profited from mating with polyandrous males, indicating benefits of sexual selection outweigh costs.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that costs and benefits of sexually selected adaptations in both sexes can be profoundly altered by environmental quality. With regard to understanding possible impacts of environmental change, our results further show that the ecology of mating systems and associated selection pressures should be considered in greater detail.

Keywords:
Sexual conflict; Tribolium; Polyandry; Monogamy; Mating costs; Reproductive success