Covariation between predation risk, body size and fin elaboration in the green swordtail, Xiphophorus helleri

Alexandra L. Basolo, William E. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations

Abstract

Natural and sexual selection can have either opposing or synergistic effects on the evolution of traits. In the green swordtail Xiphophorus helleri, sexual selection arising from female choice is known to favour larger males and males with longer swords. We examined variation in male and female size and fin morphology among 15 populations that varied in their predation environments. Males and females from populations in which piscivorous fishes were present had longer and deeper bodies than did males and females from populations in which piscivorous fishes were absent. Controlling for a positive effect of body size on sword length, males from populations in which piscivores were present had relatively shorter swords than did males from populations in which piscivores were absent. The associations between morphology and predation environment may be due to direct effects of predation, indirect effects of predation, other sources of selection that covary with predator presence, or other environmental effects on trait expression. These results suggest that while sexual selection favours longer swords, natural selection may have an opposing effect on sword length in populations with predators. Natural selection on body size, however, may act synergistically with sexual selection in populations with predators; both may favour the evolution of larger body size. The body size results for X. helleri contrast with related taxa that have become model systems for the study of life history evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-100
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume83
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2004

Keywords

  • Natural selection
  • Poeciliid
  • Sexual selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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