Sex differences in the plasticity of life history in response to social environment
Predicting how social environment affects life history variation is critical to understanding if, and when, selection favors alternative life history development, especially in systems in which social interactions change over time or space. While sexual selection theory predicts that males and females should respond differently to variation in the social environment, few studies have examined the responses of both male and female phenotypes to the same gradient of social environment. In this study, we used a livebearing fish to determine how males and females altered their life histories in response to variation in social environment during development. We found that both males and females delayed maturity and attained larger sizes when their social environment included adults, in contrast to developing in juvenile-only environments. The magnitude of this effect differed substantially between the sexes. The common pattern of response in the sexes suggested that life history tradeoffs rather than sexual selection, is responsible for these changes in life-history expression. These effects make the relationship between genotype and phenotype depend strongly on the environment experienced by each individual. These results indicate that social environment is an important driver of life history variation in sailfin mollies and can be at least as important as abiotic effects.
Travis, Joseph; Lange, Elizabeth; Ptacek, Margaret; Hughes, Kimberly (2021), "Sex differences in the plasticity of life history in response to social environment", DRYAD, doi: 10.5061/dryad.2rbnzs7ms