Male sexually coercive behaviour drives increased swimming efficiency in female guppies

Killen, S. S. , Croft, D. P., Salin, K. and Darden, S. K. (2016) Male sexually coercive behaviour drives increased swimming efficiency in female guppies. Functional Ecology, 30(4), pp. 576-583. (doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12527) (PMID:27478292) (PMCID:PMC4949636)

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Sexual coercion of females by males is widespread across sexually reproducing species. It stems from a conflict of interest over reproduction and exerts selective pressure on both sexes. For females, there is often a significant energetic cost of exposure to male sexually coercive behaviours. Our understanding of the efficiency of female resistance to male sexually coercive behaviour is key to understanding how sexual conflict contributes to population level dynamics and ultimately to the evolution of sexually antagonistic traits. Overlooked within this context are plastic physiological responses of traits within the lifetime of females that could moderate the energetic cost imposed by coercive males. Here, we examined whether conflict over the frequency and timing of mating between male and female guppies Poecilia reticulata can induce changes in swimming performance and aerobic capacity in females as they work to escape harassment by males. Females exposed to higher levels of harassment over a 5-month period used less oxygen to swim at a given speed, but displayed no difference in resting metabolic rate, maximal metabolic rate, maximal sustained swimming speed or aerobic scope compared to females receiving lower levels of harassment. The observed increase in swimming efficiency is at least partially related to differences in swimming mechanics, likely brought on by a training effect of increased activity, as highly harassed females spent less time performing pectoral fin-assisted swimming. Sexual conflict results in sexually antagonistic traits that impose a variety of costs, but our results show that females can reduce costs through phenotypic plasticity. It is also possible that phenotypic plasticity in swimming physiology or mechanics in response to sexual coercion can potentially give females more control over matings and affect which male traits are under selection.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Killen, Professor Shaun and Salin, Dr Karine
Authors: Killen, S. S., Croft, D. P., Salin, K., and Darden, S. K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Functional Ecology
ISSN (Online):1365-2435
Published Online:24 August 2015
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Authors
First Published:First published in Functional Ecology 30(4): 576-583
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
594261The Influence of Individual Physiology on Group Behaviour in Fish SchoolsShaun KillenNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/J019100/1RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED