Tradeoffs limit the evolution of male traits that are attractive to females

William E. Wagner, Oliver M. Beckers, Amanda E. Tolle, Alexandra L. Basolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Tradeoffs occur between a variety of traits in a diversity of organisms, and these tradeoffs can have major effects on ecological and evolutionary processes. Far less is known, however, about tradeoffs between male traits that affect mate attraction than about tradeoffs between other types of traits. Previous results indicate that females of the variable field cricket, Gryllus lineaticeps, prefer male songs with higher chirp rates and longer chirp durations. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that a tradeoff between these traits affects the evolution of male song. The two traits were negatively correlated among full-sibling families, consistent with a genetically based tradeoff, and the tradeoff was stronger when nutrients were limiting. In addition, for males from 12 populations reared in a common environment, the traits were negatively correlated within populations, the strength of the tradeoff was largely invariant across populations, and the within-population tradeoff predicted how the traits have evolved among populations. A widespread tradeoff thus affects male trait evolution. Finally, for males from four populations assayed in the field, the traits were negatively correlated within and among populations. The tradeoff is thus robust to the presence of environmental factors that might mask its effects. Together, our results indicate there is a fundamental tradeoff between male traits that: (i) limits the ability of males to produce multiple attractive traits; (ii) limits how male traits evolve; and (iii) might favour plasticity in female mating preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2899-2906
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1739
StatePublished - Jul 22 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Female choice
  • Field crickets
  • Preferred male traits
  • Sexual selection
  • Tradeoffs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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