Quantitative genetics of sexual display, ejaculate quality and size in a lekking species

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SummaryThe investment into extravagant sexual display and competitive sperm are two essential components of pre- and post-copulatory sexual selection. Even though the selective forces acting on sexual display and sperm characteristics have been extensively studied in recent years, the genetic architecture underlying the expression of these traits has been rarely explored.Here, we estimated the genetic variances and covariances of traits linked with ejaculate size and quality, and sexual display in the houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata undulata, Jacquin 1784).Using a very large pedigree-based data set, we show that sexual signalling and ejaculate size (but not ejaculate quality) are heritable and genetically positively correlated. The matrix of genetic covariances also provided support for some across-sex correlations: male and female gamete numbers are positively correlated, and more surprisingly, male display and female gamete numbers are also positively correlated.These results can have important implications for the understanding of the evolution of sperm traits and sexual display in animals.

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