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Data from: Limits to environmental masking of genetic quality in sexual signals

Cite this dataset

Howie, James Malcolm; Dawson, Harry Alexander Cordeaux; Pomiankowski, Andrew; Fowler, Kevin (2019). Data from: Limits to environmental masking of genetic quality in sexual signals [Dataset]. Dryad.


There is considerable debate over the value of male sexual ornaments as signals of genetic quality. Studies alternately report that environmental variation enhances or diminishes the genetic signal, or leads to crossover where genotypes perform well in one environment but poorly in another. A unified understanding is lacking. We conduct a novel experimental test examining the dual effects of distinct categories of genetic (inbred versus crossed parental lines) and environmental quality (low, through high to extreme larval food stress) on a condition-dependent male ornament. We find that differences in genetic quality signalled by the ornament (male eyespan in Diasemopsis meigenii stalk-eyed flies) become visible and are amplified under high stress but are overwhelmed in extreme stress environments. Variance among independent genetic lines increases with environmental stress in both genetic quality classes, but at a slower rate in high quality outcrossed flies. Individual genetic lines generally maintain their ranks across environments, except among high quality lines under low environmental stress, where low genetic variance among lines precludes differentiation between ranks. Our results provide a conceptual advance, demonstrating a unified pattern for how genetic and environmental quality interact. They show when environmental conditions lead to the amplification of differences in signals of genetic quality and thereby enhance the potential indirect genetic benefits gained by female mate choice.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: EP/F500351/1, EP/I017909/1, NE/G00563X/1, NE/R010579/1


S. Africa