Male mate choice scales…
Background: Studies addressing the adaptive significance of female ornamentation have gained ground recently. However, the expression of female ornaments in relation to body size, known as trait allometry, still remains unexplored. Here, we investigated the allometry of a conspicuous female ornament in Pelvicachromis taeniatus, a biparental cichlid that shows mutual mate choice and ornamentation. Females feature an eye-catching pelvic fin greatly differing from that of males.
Results: We show that allometry of the female pelvic fin is scaled more positively in comparison to other fins. The pelvic fin exhibits isometry, whereas the other fins (except the caudal fin) show negative allometry. The size of the pelvic fin might be exaggerated by male choice because males prefer female stimuli that show a larger extension of the trait. Female pelvic fin size is correlated with individual condition, suggesting that males can assess direct and indirect benefits.
Conclusions: The absence of positive ornament allometry might be a result of sexual selection constricted by natural selection: fins are related to locomotion and thus may be subject to viability selection. Our study provides evidence that male mate choice might scale the expression of a female sexual ornament, and therefore has implications for the understanding of the relationship of female sexual traits with body size in species with conventional sex-roles.