Stronger sexual selection in warmer waters: the case of a sex role reversed pipefish
Monteiro, Nuno M.
Lyons, David O.
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Monteiro, Nuno M. Lyons, David O. (2012). Stronger sexual selection in warmer waters: the case of a sex role reversed pipefish. PLoS ONE 7 (8),
In order to answer broader questions about sexual selection, one needs to measure selection on a wide array of phenotypic traits, simultaneously through space and time. Nevertheless, studies that simultaneously address temporal and spatial variation in reproduction are scarce. Here, we aimed to investigate the reproductive dynamics of a cold-water pipefish simultaneously through time (encompassing variation within each breeding cycle and as individuals grow) and space (by contrasting populations experiencing distinct water temperature regimes) in order to test hypothesized differences in sexual selection. Even though the sampled populations inhabited locations with very different water temperature regimes, they exhibited considerable similarities in reproductive parameters. The most striking was the existence of a well-defined substructure in reproductive activity, where larger individuals reproduce for longer periods, which seemed dependent on a high temperature threshold for breeding rather than on the low temperatures that vary heavily according to latitude. Furthermore, the perceived disparities among populations, such as size at first reproduction, female reproductive investment, or degree of sexual size dimorphism, seemed dependent on the interplay between seawater temperature and the operational sex ratio (OSR). Contrary to our expectations of an enhanced opportunity for sexual selection in the north, we found the opposite: higher female reproductive investment coupled with increased sexual size dimorphism in warmer waters, implying that a prolonged breeding season does not necessarily translate into reduced sexual selection pressure. In fact, if the limited sex has the ability to reproduce either continuously or recurrently during the entire breeding season, an increased opportunity for sexual selection might arise from the need to compete for available partners under strongly biased OSRs across protracted breeding seasons. A more general discussion on the effects of climate change in the pressure of sexual selection is also presented.