A field test of the Hamilton-Zuk hypothesis in the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
The Hamilton-Zuk hypothesis proposes that females prefer male secondary sexual traits because they are honest indicators of parasite resistance. Despite the attention that this hypothesis has received, its role in sexual selection remains equivocal. This study presents the first field test in guppies of two key predictions of the Hamilton-Zuk hypothesis: (1) that within populations, the most highly ornamented males have the fewest parasites and (2) that among populations, males in high parasite populations have the most conspicuous ornaments. Five hundred male guppies from 19 distinct populations in the Northern Range of Trinidad were inspected for Gyrodactylus parasites and photographed. Eight measures of orange spot ornamentation were used to test the predictions: hue, saturation, lightness, relative area, number, and area-weighted hue, saturation, and lightness. Parasite load had no significant effect on any of these measures. There was also no relationship between orange spot ornamentation and parasite abundance among populations. Guppies from high-predation environments had significantly more parasites, and their orange coloration was lighter and less saturated than that in guppies from low-predation environments. Despite previous lab results, this study found no relationship between parasite load and male orange spot ornamentation. © 2007 Springer-Verlag.
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