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Habitat change alters the expression and efficiency of a female ornament

Citation

Bäckroos, Sini; Ala-Ilomäki, Lea; Candolin, Ulrika (2022), Habitat change alters the expression and efficiency of a female ornament, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.b8gtht7g3

Abstract

Anthropogenic habitat changes are disrupting the mate choice process in a range of organisms, with consequences for populations and communities. Research has so far focussed on male sexually selected traits and female mate choice, given their conspicuousness, while effects on female ornaments and male mate choice have been largely overlooked. Yet, females of many species develop ornaments that males use in mate choice. These ornaments can be costly and reduce female fecundity and viability and, hence, influence population growth rate. Thus, attention should be paid to changes in these ornaments and the consequences the changes have for populations. Here, we show that declining visibility in aquatic ecosystems reduces the investment of female threespine stickleback in a melanin-based ornament in favour of increased search activity. The adjustment appears adaptive as males pay less attention to the ornament under poor visibility, and as melanin-based ornaments are physiologically costly. It is likely that past fluctuations in visibility has promoted the evolution of environment-dependent plasticity in female ornamentation. More attention should be paid to changes in female ornaments and their adaptive value, across taxa, given the impact that female investment in ornaments can have on fecundity and population growth rate. Environments are changing at an accelerating rate because of human activities and knowledge of the responses of both males and females to these changes are needed to evaluate and predict the ultimate impact on populations and biodiversity. Keywords: environmental change, eutrophication, fecundity, reproduction, sexual selection, signals

Funding

Svenska Kulturfonden, Award: 119695

Walter and Andree de Nottbeck Foundation