Sexual Selection on male cuticular hydrocarbons via male–male competition and female choice

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Abstract

Traditional views of sexual selection assumed that male–male competition and female mate choice work in harmony, selecting upon the same traits in the same direction. However, we now know that this is not always the case and that these two mechanisms often impose conflicting selection on male sexual traits. Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) have been shown to be linked to both social dominance and male attractiveness in several insect species. However, although several studies have estimated the strength and form of sexual selection imposed on male CHCs by female mate choice, none have established whether these chemical traits are also subject to sexual selection via male–male competition. Using a multivariate selection analysis, we estimate and compare sexual selection exerted by male–male competition and female mate choice on male CHC composition in the broad-horned flour beetle Gnatocerus cornutus. We show that male–male competition exerts strong linear selection on both overall CHC abundance and body size in males, while female mate choice exerts a mixture of linear and nonlinear selection, targeting not just the overall amount of CHCs expressed but the relative abundance of specific hydrocarbons as well. We discuss the potential implications of this antagonistic selection with regard to male reproductive success.

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