GELIFES Seminars - Caroline Nieberding
Caroline Nieberding (Université catholique de Louvain)
Let’s bring (back) ecological complexity in sexual selection studies - A case study with a phenotypically plastic butterfly
Environmental, ecologically-relevant, complexity has been removed for decades from most laboratory-based experimental studies on sexual selection. This reductionist approach is relevant and has obvious advantages. Yet, the strength, direction and shape of sexual selection are:
- highly dependent on the environment that organisms face;
- efine how sexual selection affects the evolution of sexual traits and of reproductive isolation in nature.
I thus argue that it is now timely to better integrate ecologically-relevant laboratory settings to the study of sexual selection. Using a butterfly that shows high phenotypic plasticity in sexually selected traits as a model species, I will illustrate the importance of bringing ecology back in the lab by showing that:
- the results we gain from lab experiments can be opposite depending on the environmental settings used to test sexual selection (Holveck et al, 2015; Nieberding and Holveck, 2017; in review) ;
- adding some environmental complexity can affect the lifelong expression of multiple sexual traits in surprising ways (Holveck et al, in prep);
- climate change can worryingly lead to immediate maladaptive mate choice that may question the short-term survival of natural populations (Muller et al, in prep).
These data are for the most part unpublished and are still open to interpretation.