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Evolution. 2010 Jun;64(6):1719-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00923.x. Epub 2009 Dec 10.

Sexual selection can increase the effect of random genetic drift--a quantitative genetic model of polymorphism in Oophaga pumilio, the strawberry poison-dart frog.

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  • 1CoMPLEX, University College London, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT, London, United Kingdom.


The variation in color pattern between populations of the poison-dart frog Oophaga pumilio across the Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama is suggested to be due to sexual selection, as two other nonsexually selecting Dendrobatid species found in the same habitat and range do not exhibit this variation. We theoretically test this assertion using a quantitative genetic sexual selection model incorporating aposematic coloration and random drift. We find that sexual selection could cause the observed variation via a novel process we call "coupled drift." Within our model, for certain parameter values, sexual selection forces frog color to closely follow the evolution of female preference. Any between-population variation in preference due to genetic drift is passed on to color. If female preference in O. pumilio is strongly affected by drift, whereas color in the nonsexually selecting Dendrobatid species is not, coupled drift will cause increased between-population phenotypic variation. However, with different parameter values, coupled drift will result in between-population variation in color being suppressed compared to its neutral value, or in little or no effect. We suggest that coupled drift is a novel theoretical process that could have a role linking sexual selection with speciation both in O. pumilio, and perhaps more generally.

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