In hot pursuit: Fluctuating mating system and sexual selection in sand lizards
A changing climate is expected to have profound effects on many aspects of ectotherm biology. We report on a decade-long study of free-ranging sand lizards (Lacerta agilis), exposed to an increasing mean mating season temperature and with known operational sex ratios. We assessed year-to-year variation in sexual selection on body size and postcopulatory sperm competition and cryptic female choice. Higher temperature was not linked to strength of sexual selection on body mass, but operational sex ratio (more males) did increase the strength of sexual selection on body size. Elevated temperature increased mating rate and number of sires per clutch with positive effects on offspring fitness. In years when the "quality" of a female's partners was more variable (in standard errors of a male sexual ornament), clutches showed less multiple paternity. This agrees with prior laboratory trials in which females exercised stronger cryptic female choice when male quality varied more. An increased number of sires contributing to within-clutch paternity decreased the risk of having malformed offspring. Ultimately, such variation may contribute to highly dynamic and shifting selection mosaics in the wild, with potential implications for the evolutionary ecology of mating systems and population responses to rapidly changing environmental conditions.