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The Heritability of Mating Behaviour in a Fly and Its Plasticity in Response to the Threat of Sperm Competition

Abstract : Phenotypic plasticity is a key mechanism by which animals can cope with rapidly changeable environments, but the evolutionary lability of such plasticity remains unclear. The socio-sexual environment can fluctuate very rapidly, affecting both the frequency of mating opportunities and the level of competition males may face. Males of many species show plastic behavioural responses to changes in social environment, in particular the presence of rival males. For example, Drosophila pseudoobscura males respond to rivals by extending mating duration and increasing ejaculate size. Whilst such responses are predicted to be adaptive, the extent to which the magnitude of response is heritable, and hence selectable, is unknown. We investigated this using isofemale lines of the fruit fly D. pseudoobscura, estimating heritability of mating duration in males exposed or not to a rival, and any genetic basis to the change in this trait between these environments (i.e. degree of plasticity). The two populations differed in population sex ratio, and the presence of a sex ratio distorting selfish chromosome. We find that mating duration is heritable, but no evidence of population differences. We find no significant heritability of plasticity in mating duration in one population, but borderline significant heritability of plasticity in the second. This difference between populations might be related to the presence of the sex ratio distorting selfish gene in the latter population, but this will require investigation in additional populations to draw any conclusions. We suggest that there is scope for selection to produce an evolutionary response in the plasticity of mating duration in response to rivals in D. pseudoobscura, at least in some populations.
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Contributor : Valerie Briand <>
Submitted on : Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 3:04:50 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 11, 2019 - 2:10:07 PM

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Amanda Bretman, Anne Lizé, Craig A. Walling, Tom A. R. Price. The Heritability of Mating Behaviour in a Fly and Its Plasticity in Response to the Threat of Sperm Competition. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2014, 9 (2), pp.e90236. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0090236⟩. ⟨hal-01241443⟩



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