Rapid courtship evolution in grouse (Tetraonidae): Contrasting patterns of acceleration between the Eurasian and North American polygynous clades

  • Spaulding A
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Sexual selection is thought to be a powerful diversifying force, based on large ornamental differences between sexually dimorphic species. This assumes that unornamented phenotypes represent evolution without sexual selection. If sexual selection is more powerful than other forms of selection, then two effects would be: rapid divergence of sexually selected traits and a correlation between these divergence rates and variance in mating success in the ornamented sex. I tested for these effects in grouse (Tetraonidae). For three species pairs, within and among polygynous clades, male courtship characters had significantly greater divergence than other characters. This was most pronounced for two species in Tympanuchus. In the Eurasian polygynous clade, relative courtship divergence gradually increased with nucleotide divergence, suggesting a less dramatic acceleration. Increase in relative courtship divergence was associated with mating systems having higher variance in male mating success. These results suggest that sexual selection has accelerated courtship evolution among grouse, although the microevolutionary details appear to vary among clades.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Courtship behaviour
  • Lekking
  • Mating system
  • Plumage ornaments
  • Rapid evolution
  • Sexual selection

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  • Allen Spaulding

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