- Fitness trade-offs and the maintenance of alternative male morphs in the bulb mite (Rhizoglyphus robini)
- Journal of Evolutionary Biology
- Volume | Issue number
- 25 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Alternative reproductive phenotypes (ARPs) occur across a wide range of taxa. Most ARPs are conditionally expressed in response to a cue, for example body size, that reliably correlates with the status of the environment: individuals below the (body size) threshold then develop into one morph, and individuals above the threshold develop into the alternative morph. The environmental threshold model provides a theoretical framework to understand the evolution and maintenance of such ARPs, yet no study has examined the underlying fitness functions that are necessary to realize this. Here, we empirically examined fitness functions for the two male morphs of the bulb mite (Rhizoglyphus robini). Fitness functions were derived in relation to male size for solitary males and in relation to female size under competition. In both cases, the fitness functions of the two morphs intersected, and the resulting fitness trade-offs may play a role in the maintenance of this male dimorphism. We furthermore found that competition was strongest between males of the same morph, suggesting that fitness trade-off in relation to male size may persist under competition. Our results are a first step towards unravelling fitness functions of ARPs that are environmentally cued threshold traits, which is essential for understanding their maintenance and in explaining the response to selection against alternative morphs.
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