'Palaeoshellomics' reveals the use of freshwater mother-of-pearl in prehistory.
ABSTRACT: The extensive use of mollusc shell as a versatile raw material is testament to its importance in prehistoric times. The consistent choice of certain species for different purposes, including the making of ornaments, is a direct representation of how humans viewed and exploited their environment. The necessary taxonomic information, however, is often impossible to obtain from objects that are small, heavily worked or degraded. Here we propose a novel biogeochemical approach to track the biological origin of prehistoric mollusc shell. We conducted an in-depth study of archaeological ornaments using microstructural, geochemical and biomolecular analyses, including 'palaeoshellomics', the first application of palaeoproteomics to mollusc shells (and indeed to any invertebrate calcified tissue). We reveal the consistent use of locally-sourced freshwater mother-of-pearl for the standardized manufacture of 'double-buttons'. This craft is found throughout Europe between 4200-3800 BCE, highlighting the ornament-makers' profound knowledge of the biogeosphere and the existence of cross-cultural traditions.
Project description:Sex-specific ornaments typically occur in males, but they can also develop in females. While there are several models concerning the evolution of male-specific ornaments, it is not clear how, or under what circumstances, those models apply to female-specific ornament evolution. Here, we present a manipulative field experiment that explores the theoretical 'trait space' of multiple female-specific ornaments to study how these unusual traits evolved. We measured the attractiveness of two female-specific ornaments (pinnate leg scales and inflatable abdominal sacs) in the dance fly Rhamphomyia longicauda in a wild mating swarm. We found significant directional preferences for larger ornaments of both types; however, variation in one of the ornaments (abdominal sacs) was almost three times more effective at improving attractiveness. The abdominal ornament was consistently effective in increasing attractiveness to males regardless of leg ornament expression, while leg ornament size was only effective if abdominal ornaments were very small. These results are consistent with predictions from a sexual conflict model of ornament expression in supporting the probable role of deception in the evolution of female-specific ornaments among dance flies. Sexual conflict can be an important force in generating elaborate sex-specific ornaments in females as well as males.
Project description:Extravagant male ornaments expressed during reproduction are almost invariably assumed to be sexually selected and evolve through competition for mating opportunities. Yet in species where male reproductive success depends on the defence of offspring, male ornaments could also evolve through social competition for offspring survival. However, in contrast to female ornaments, this possibility has received little attention in males. We show that a male ornament that is traditionally assumed to be sexually selected--the red nuptial coloration of the three-spined stickleback--is under stronger selection for offspring survival than for mating success. Males express most coloration during parenting, when they no longer attract females, and the colour correlates with nest retention and hatching success but not with attractiveness to females. This contradicts earlier assumptions and suggests that social selection for offspring survival rather than for sexual selection for mating success is the main mechanism maintaining the ornament in the population. These results suggest that we should consider other forms of social selection beyond sexual selection when seeking to explain the function and evolution of male ornaments. An incorrect assignment of selection pressures could hamper our understanding of evolution.
Project description:Ornaments used in courtship often vary wildly among species, reflecting the evolutionary interplay between mate preference functions and the constraints imposed by natural selection. Consequently, understanding the evolutionary dynamics responsible for ornament diversification has been a longstanding challenge in evolutionary biology. However, comparing radically different ornaments across species, as well as different classes of ornaments within species, is a profound challenge to understanding diversification of sexual signals. Using novel methods and a unique natural history dataset, we explore evolutionary patterns of ornament evolution in a group-the birds-of-paradise-exhibiting dramatic phenotypic diversification widely assumed to be driven by sexual selection. Rather than the tradeoff between ornament types originally envisioned by Darwin and Wallace, we found positive correlations among cross-modal (visual/acoustic) signals indicating functional integration of ornamental traits into a composite unit-the "courtship phenotype." Furthermore, given the broad theoretical and empirical support for the idea that systemic robustness-functional overlap and interdependency-promotes evolutionary innovation, we posit that birds-of-paradise have radiated extensively through ornamental phenotype space as a consequence of the robustness in the courtship phenotype that we document at a phylogenetic scale. We suggest that the degree of robustness in courtship phenotypes among taxa can provide new insights into the relative influence of sexual and natural selection on phenotypic radiations.
Project description:Sexual ornaments found only in females are a rare occurrence in nature. One explanation for this is that female ornaments are costly to produce and maintain and, therefore, females must trade-off resources related to reproduction to promote ornament expression. Here, we investigate whether a trade-off exists between female ornamentation and fecundity in the sex-role reversed, wide-bodied pipefish, Stigmatopora nigra. We measured two components of the disk-shaped, ventral-striped female ornament, body width, and stripe thickness. After controlling for the influence of body size, we found no evidence of a cost of belly width or stripe thickness on female fecundity. Rather, females that have larger ornaments have higher fecundity and thus accurately advertise their reproductive value to males without incurring a cost to fecundity. We also investigated the relationship between female body size and egg size and found that larger females suffer a slight decrease in egg size and fecundity, although this decrease was independent of female ornamentation. More broadly, considered in light of similar findings in other taxa, lack of an apparent fecundity cost of ornamentation in female pipefish underscores the need to revisit theoretical assumptions concerning the evolution of female ornamentation.
Project description:Species spanning the animal kingdom have evolved extravagant and costly ornaments to attract mating partners. Zahavi's handicap principle offers an elegant explanation for this: ornaments signal individual quality, and must be costly to ensure honest signalling, making mate selection more efficient. Here, we incorporate the assumptions of the handicap principle into a mathematical model and show that they are sufficient to explain the heretofore puzzling observation of bimodally distributed ornament sizes in a variety of species.
Project description:Carotenoid-based ornaments are common signalling features in animals. It has long been proposed that such ornaments communicate information about foraging abilities to potential mates. However, evidence linking foraging with ornamentation is largely missing from unmanipulated, free-ranging populations. To investigate this relationship, we studied a coastal population of brown booby (Sula leucogaster brewsteri), a seabird with a carotenoid-based gular skin ornament. ? 13C values from both feathers and blood plasma were negatively correlated with male gular colour, indicating birds that consumed more pelagic prey in offshore locations had more ornamented skin than those that fed on nearshore, benthic prey. This relationship was supported by our GPS tracking results, which revealed longer, more offshore foraging trips among highly ornamented males. Our data show that brown booby ornaments are honest indicators of foraging propensity; a link consistent with the rarity hypothesis and potentially driven by the concentration of carotenoids found in phytoplankton versus benthic algae. Carotenoid-based ornaments may reflect foraging tendencies in animals such as coastal predators that use food webs with distinct carotenoid profiles.
Project description:Recent studies have called into question the idea that facial masculinity is a condition-dependent male ornament that indicates immunocompetence in humans. We add to this growing body of research by calculating an objective measure of facial masculinity/femininity using 3D images in a large sample (n = 1,233) of people of European ancestry. We show that facial masculinity is positively correlated with adult height in both males and females. However, facial masculinity scales with growth similarly in males and females, suggesting that facial masculinity is not exclusively a male ornament, as male ornaments are typically more sensitive to growth in males compared with females. Additionally, we measured immunocompetence via heterozygosity at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), a widely-used genetic marker of immunity. We show that, while height is positively correlated with MHC heterozygosity, facial masculinity is not. Thus, facial masculinity does not reflect immunocompetence measured by MHC heterozygosity in humans. Overall, we find no support for the idea that facial masculinity is a condition-dependent male ornament that has evolved to indicate immunocompetence.
Project description:In contrast to the important role of hormones in the development of sexual traits in vertebrates (Cox RM, Stenquist DS, Calsbeek R. 2009. Testosterone, growth and the evolution of sexual size dimorphism. J Evol Biol. 22(8):1586-1598.), the differentiation of these traits in insects is attributed almost exclusively to cell-autonomous mechanisms controlled by members of the sex determination pathway (Verhulst EC, van de Zande L. 2015. Double nexus - doublesex is the connecting element in sex determination. Brief Funct Genomics 14(6):396-406.), such as doublesex. Although hormones can shape the development of sexual traits in insects, variation in hormone levels are not conclusively known to cause dimorphism in these traits (Prakash A, Monteiro A. 2016. Molecular mechanisms of secondary sexual trait development in insects. Curr Opin Insect Sci. 17:40-48.). Here, we show that butterflies use sex-specific differences in 20-hydroxyecdysone hormone titers to create sexually dimorphic wing ornaments. Females of the dry season (DS) form of Bicyclus anynana display a larger sexual ornament on their wings than males, whereas in the wet season form both sexes have similarly sized ornaments (Prudic KL, Jeon C, Cao H, Monteiro A. 2011. Developmental plasticity in sexual roles of butterfly species drives mutual sexual ornamentation. Science 331(6013):73-75.). High levels of circulating 20-hydroxyecdysone during larval development in DS females and wet season forms cause proliferation of the cells fated to give rise to this wing ornament, and results in sexual dimorphism in the DS forms. This study advances our understanding of how the environment regulates sex-specific patterns of plasticity of sexual ornaments and conclusively shows that hormones can play a role in the development of secondary sexual traits in insects, just like they do in vertebrates.
Project description:Sexually dimorphic ornamental traits are widely regarded as indicators of nutritional condition. However, variation of nutritional condition outside the reproductive and the ornament production seasons has rarely been considered, although it affects the generality of information content, especially for ornaments that may be used across the year. We measured several indicators of migratory and molt condition in male and female blackcaps (<i>Sylvia atricapilla</i>) during their autumn migration, and quantified their crown reflectance. We detected robust correlations between migratory and molt condition indices, and the correlation structure was similar in the two sexes. Furthermore, the across-season measure of body condition was positively related to the darkness of the black crown in males, while being unrelated to reflectance traits of the reddish crown in females. Our results reinforce the possibility that some melanin-based ornaments may be year-round indicators of individual quality via their dependence on nutritional condition.