Limited effects of inbreeding on breeding coloration

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Journal of Heredity


Animal color signals may function as indicators of fighting ability when males compete for access to females. This allows opponents to settle aggressive interactions before they escalate into physical combat and injury. Thus, there may be strong directional selection on these traits, toward enhanced signal quality. This renders sexually selected traits particularly susceptible to inbreeding depression, due to relatively low ratios of additive genetic variance to dominance variance. We measured the effects of inbreeding on an intrasexually selected color signal (the badge) in a population of Swedish sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) using the Rhh software based on 17 to 21 microsatellites. Males of this sexually dichromatic species use the badge during aggressive interactions to display, and assess, fighting ability. We found negative effects of homozygosity on badge size, saturation, and brightness. However, no such effects were observed on color hue. Pairwise correlations between badge size, hue, and saturation were all statistically significant. Thus, the sand lizard "badge"is a multicomponent signal with variation explained by covariation in badge size, saturation, and color hue. Body mass corrected for skeletal size (body condition) positively predicted badge size and saturation, encouraging future research on the extent that sexual signals may convey information on multigene targets (i.e. "genic capture").

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