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A rigorous comparison of sexual selection indexes via simulations of diverse mating systems.


ABSTRACT: Sexual selection is a cornerstone of evolutionary theory, but measuring it has proved surprisingly difficult and controversial. Various proxy measures--e.g., the Bateman gradient and the opportunity for sexual selection--are widely used in empirical studies. However, we do not know how reliably these measures predict the strength of sexual selection across natural systems, and most perform poorly in theoretical worst-case scenarios. Here we provide a rigorous comparison of eight commonly used indexes of sexual selection. We simulated 500 biologically plausible mating systems, based on the templates of five well-studied species that cover a diverse range of reproductive life histories. We compared putative indexes to the actual strength of premating sexual selection, measured as the strength of selection on a simulated "mating trait." This method sidesteps a key weakness of empirical studies, which lack an appropriate yardstick against which proxy measures can be assessed. Our model predicts that, far from being useless, the best proxy measures reliably track the strength of sexual selection across biologically realistic scenarios. The maximum intensity of precopulatory sexual selection s'max (the Jones index) outperformed all other indexes and was highly correlated with the strength of sexual selection. In contrast, the Bateman gradient and the opportunity for sexual selection were poor predictors of sexual selection, despite their continuing popularity.

SUBMITTER: Henshaw JM 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4725529 | BioStudies | 2016-01-01

SECONDARY ACCESSION(S): 10.5061/dryad.3p2j0

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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