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Evolution. 2001 May;55(5):1002-15.

Direct and indirect sexual selection and quantitative genetics of male traits in guppies (Poecilia reticulata).

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  • 1School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.


The ornamentation and displays on which sexual attractiveness and thus mating success are based may be complex and comprise several traits. Predicting the outcome of sexual selection on such complex phenotypes requires an understanding of both the direct operation of selection on each trait and the indirect consequences of selection operating directly on genetically correlated traits. Here we report the results of a quantitative genetic analysis of the ornamentation, sexual attractiveness, and mating success of male guppies (Poecilia reticulata). We analyze male ornamentation both from the point of view of single ornamental traits (e.g., the area of each color) and of composite measures of the way the entire pattern is likely to be perceived by females (e.g., the mean and contrast in chroma). We demonstrate that there is substantial additive genetic variation in almost all measures of male ornamentation and that much of this variation may be Y linked. Attractiveness and mating success are positively correlated at the phenotypic and genetic level. Orange area and chroma, the area of a male's tail, and the color contrast of his pattern overall are positively correlated with attractiveness and/or mating success at the phenotypic and genetic levels. Using attractiveness and mating success as measures of fitness, we estimate gradients of linear directional sexual selection operating on each male trait and use equations of multivariate evolutionary change to predict the response of male ornamentation to this sexual selection. From these analyses, we predict that indirect selection may have important effects on the evolution of male guppy color patterns.

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