Diversification of a Food-Mimicking Male Ornament via Sensory Drive

Animal Ecology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden.
Current biology: CB (Impact Factor: 9.92). 07/2012; 22(15):1440-3. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.05.050
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The evolutionary divergence of sexual signals is often important during the formation of new animal species, but our understanding of the origin of signal diversity is limited [1, 2]. Sensory drive, the optimization of communication signal efficiency through matching to the local environment, has been highlighted as a potential promoter of diversification and speciation [3]. The swordtail characin (Corynopoma riisei) is a tropical fish in which males display a flag-like ornament that elicits female foraging behavior during courtship. We show that the shape of the male ornament covaries with female diet across natural populations. More specifically, natural populations in which the female diet is more dominated by ants exhibit male ornaments more similar to the shape of an ant. Feeding experiments confirm that females habituated to a diet of ants prefer to bite at male ornaments from populations with a diet more dominated by ants. Our results show that the male ornament functions as a "fishing lure" that is diversifying in shape to match local variation in female search images employed during foraging. This direct link between variation in female feeding ecology and the evolutionary diversification of male sexual ornaments suggests that sensory drive may be a common engine of signal divergence.

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    ABSTRACT: Pheromones constitute an important cue used by both males and females during courtship. Here, we investigate the effect of male pheromones on female behaviour in the swordtail characin (Corynopoma riisei), a species of fish where males have a caudal pheromone gland which has been suggested to affect female behaviour during courtship. We subjected female C. riisei to male courtship pheromones and investigated the effect on both female behaviour and brain serotonergic activity levels compared to a control group. While no difference in serotonergic activity was found, the pheromone‐treated females showed lower stress levels compared to the control group. Furthermore, pheromone‐treated females increased locomotor activity over time, while a decrease in locomotor activity was observed in the control group. These results suggest that the male courtship pheromones may serve to reduce female stress and increase female activity, possibly to aid males in gaining access to females and facilitating sperm transfer.
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    ABSTRACT: Our view of the evolution of sexually selected traits and preferences was influenced radically in the 1990s by studies that emphasized how signals interact with sensory properties of receivers. Here, twenty-five years later, we review evidence that has accumulated in support of this idea. We replace the term sensory biases with perceptual biases to emphasize the growing knowledge of how cognitive processes generate selection on sexual traits. We show that mating preferences among conspecifics (e.g., sexual selection by mate choice) often are influenced by perceptual adaptations and constraints that have evolved in other contexts. We suggest that these perceptual biases need not be costly to females when they influence mate choice because in many cases they generate direct benefits. Although we do not reject a role for indirect benefits in mate choice, such as good genes, exclusive focus on eugenic mate choice limits our understanding of the evolution of the remarkable diversity of sexually selected traits. Sexual selection: variance in reproductive success that results from variance in access to mates Interacting forces: any combination of female choice, male choice, male competition, and/or female competition Sensory traps: traits that attract females because they resemble stimuli that are salient in other contexts Sensory drive: sensory and signaling trait evolution driven by ecological determinants Sensory exploitation: occurs when males evolve traits that increase their attractiveness to females due to preexisting biases of females

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