Sexual dimorphism driven by intersexual resource competition: why is it rare, and where to look for it?

Xiang-Yi Li, Hanna Kokko
<span title="2021-03-23">2021</span> <i title="Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)"> <a target="_blank" rel="noopener" href="" style="color: black;">Journal of Animal Ecology</a> </i> &nbsp;
1. Sexes often differ more obviously in secondary sexual characteristics than in traits that appear naturally selected, despite conceivable benefits to intersexual niche partitioning. Genetic constraints may play a role in limiting sex-specific niche evolution, however it is not clear why this limit should apply to naturally selected traits more than those under sexual selection; the latter routinely produces dimorphism. We ask whether ecological factors and/or features of the mating system
more &raquo; ... t dimorphism in resource use, or conversely, what conditions are the most permissible ones for sexual niche differences. 2. The scale of mating competition and spatial variation in resource availability can help predict sexually dimorphic niches or the lack thereof. We investigate why and when dimorphism might fail to evolve even if genetic covariation between the sexes posed no constraint. 3. Our analytical model incorporates the first aspect of spatial interactions (scale of mating competition). It is followed by simulations that explore broader conditions, including multiple resources with habitat heterogeneity, genetic correlations, and non-Gaussian resource use efficiency functions. 4. We recover earlier known conditions for favourable conditions for the evolution of niche partitioning between sexes, such as narrow individual niche and low degrees of genetic constraint. We also show spatial considerations to alter this picture. Sexual niche divergence occurs more readily when local mating groups are small and different resources occur reliably across habitats. Polygyny (medium-sized or large mating groups) can diminish the prospects for dimorphism even if no genetic constraints are present. Habitat heterogeneity typically also disfavours niche dimorphism, but can also lead to polymorphism within a sex, if it is beneficial to specialise to be very competitive in one habitat, even at a cost to performance in the other. 5. Sexual conflict is usually used to explain dimorphic traits or behaviours. Our models highlight that introducing conflict (achieved by switching from monogamy to polygamy) can also be responsible for sexual monomorphism. Under monogamy, males benefit from specialising to consume other resources than what feeds the female best. Polygyny makes males disregard this female benefit, and both sexes compete for the most profitable resource, leading to overlapping niches.
<span class="external-identifiers"> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener noreferrer" href="">doi:10.1111/1365-2656.13487</a> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener" href="">pmid:33759459</a> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener" href="">fatcat:ccfku36swrfopip7ltpvfwrn2e</a> </span>
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