Does frequency-dependence determine male morph survival in the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini?
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Alternative reproductive phenotypes (ARPs) represent discrete morphological variation within a single sex; as such ARPs are an excellent study system to investigate the maintenance of phenotypic variation. ARPs are traditionally modelled as a mixture of pure strategies or as a conditional strategy. Most male dimorphisms are controlled by a conditional strategy, where males develop into a particular phenotype as a result of their condition which allows them to reach a certain threshold. Individuals that are unable to reach the threshold of a conditional strategy are considered to ‘make the best of a bad job’; however, these individuals can have their own fitness merits. Given these fitness merits, condition-dependent selection alone is not sufficient to maintain a conditionally determined male dimorphism and other mechanisms, most likely frequency-dependent selection, are required. We studied in an experiment, the male dimorphic bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini—where males are fighters that can kill other males or benign scramblers—to assess the strength of frequency-dependent survival in a high and low-quality environment. We found that male survival was frequency-dependent in the high-quality environment but not the low-quality environment. In the high-quality environment the survival curves of the two morphs crossed but the direction of frequency-dependence was opposite to what theory predicts.
KeywordsAlternative reproductive tactics Male dimorphic mite Frequency-dependence Threshold trait Polymorphism
We are thankful to Tim Coulson, Lochran Traill and two anonymous referees for their insightful comments on previous versions of the manuscript. The work was funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant awarded to Tim Coulson.
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