Ecological context and the importance of body and gnathopod size for pairing success in two amphipod ecomorphs.
Ecological context generates interspecific variation in mating behavior by imposing differential constraints on the action of sexual selection, but operation of these constraints in nature is not well understood. We used field and laboratory studies to examine the importance of body size and size of sexually dimorphic appendages, the gnathopods, for pairing success in two freshwater amphipod species within the Hyalella azteca species complex. We focused on a large-bodied species found in habitats where ecological factors tend to favor large body size, and a small-bodied species in habitats where small body size is favored by size-selective predation. A field study indicated that although male pairing success was greater for larger males in both species, pairing success increased throughout the range of variation in male size in the large species, whereas, in the small species, pairing success was low for smaller individuals, but roughly constant across intermediate to larger sizes. A laboratory mate choice experiment was consistent with the field study, finding that females of the large species exhibited a preference for larger males that was independent of absolute male size, but females of the small species were indifferent when choosing between males of intermediate to larger size. Species also differed in the direction of sexual size dimorphism in the field, with males being the larger sex in the large species but the smaller sex in the small species, a pattern consistent with the species differences in mate preference. Large gnathopod size relative to body size was associated with enhanced pairing success across all body sizes for the large species, but, in the small species, large gnathopod size enhanced pairing success only in smaller males. Species differences in mating behavior appear consistent with change driven by differing forms of the interaction between sexual and natural selection.
Wellborn, GA; Bartholf, SE
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