Reduced sexual size dimorphism in a pipefish population where males do not prefer larger females
Monteiro, Nuno et al. (2022), Reduced sexual size dimorphism in a pipefish population where males do not prefer larger females, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.0cfxpnvx7
Within a species’ distribution, populations are often exposed to diverse environments and may thus experience different sources of both natural and sexual selection. These differences are likely to impact the balance between costs and benefits to individuals seeking reproduction, thus entailing evolutionary repercussions. Here, we look into an unusual population (Baltic Sea) of the broadnosed pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, where males do not seem to select females based on size and hypothesise that this pattern may derive from a reduction of direct benefits to the male. We further hypothesise that if larger females do not persistently secure a higher reproductive success, either through pre- or post-copulatory sexual selection, a decrease in sexual size dimorphism in the Baltic population should be apparent, especially when contrasted with a well-studied population, inhabiting similar latitudes (Swedish west coast), where males prefer larger females.
We found that, in the Baltic population, variation in female quality is low. We were unable to find differences in abortion rates or protein concentration in oocytes produced by females of contrasting sizes. Direct benefits from mating with large partners seem, thus, reduced in the Baltic population. We also found no evidence of any post-copulatory mechanism that could favour larger mothers as embryo development was unrelated to female size. While female size can still be selected through intrasexual competition or fecundity selection, the pressure for large female body size seems to be lower in the Baltic. Accordingly, we found a noticeable decrease in sexual size dimorphism in the Baltic population. We conclude that, although far from negating the significance of other selective process, sexual selection seems to have a decisive role in supporting pipefish sexual size asymmetries.
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Award: DL57/2016/CP1440/CT0015