Negative genetic correlation between male sexual attractiveness and survival

Nature. 2000 Jul 6;406(6791):67-70. doi: 10.1038/35017552.


Indirect selection of female mating preferences may result from a genetic association between male attractiveness and offspring fitness. The offspring of attractive males may have enhanced growth, fecundity, viability or attractiveness. However, the extent to which attractive males bear genes that reduce other fitness components has remained unexplored. Here I show that sexual attractiveness in male guppies (Poecilia reticulata) is heritable and genetically correlated with ornamentation. Like ornamentation, attractiveness may be substantially Y-linked. The benefit of mating with attractive males, and thus having attractive sons, is opposed by strong negative genetic correlation between attractiveness and both offspring survival and the number of sons maturing. Such correlations suggest either antagonistic pleiotropy between attractiveness and survival or linkage disequilibrium between attractive and deleterious alleles. The presence of many colour pattern genes on or near the non-recombining section of the Y chromosome may facilitate the accumulation of deleterious mutations by genetic hitchhiking. These findings show that genes enhancing sexual attractiveness may be associated with pleiotropic costs or heavy mutational loads.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Poecilia / genetics*
  • Poecilia / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*