CIE Spotlight: Variable Environmental Effects on a Multicomponent Sexually Selected Trait

Gemma C. & John E.

Gemma C. & John E.

TitleVariable Environmental Effects on a Multicomponent Sexually Selected Trait

AuthorsCole, Gemma L.; Endler, John A.

Source: AMERICAN NATURALIST, 185 (4):452-468, APR 2015

Brief summary of the paper: Multicomponent signals are made up of interacting elements that generate a functional signaling unit. The interactions between signal components and their effects on individual fitness are not well understood, and the effect of environment is even less so.

It is usually assumed that color patterns appear the same in all light environments and that the effects of each color are additive. Using guppies, Poecilia reticulata, we investigated the effect of water color on the interactions between components of sexually selected male coloration.

Through behavioral mate choice trials in four different water colors, we estimated the attractiveness of male color patterns, using multivariate fitness estimates and overall signal contrast.

Our results show that females exhibit preferences that favor groups of colors rather than individual colors independently and that each environment favors different color combinations. We found that these effects are consistent with female guppies selecting entire color patterns on the basis of overall visual contrast. This suggests that both individuals and populations inhabiting different light environments will be subject to divergent, multivariate selection.

Although the appearance of color patterns changes with light environment, achromatic components change little, suggesting that these could function in species recognition or other aspects of communication that must work across environments.

Consequently, we predict different phylogenetic patterns between chromatic and achromatic signals within the same clades.