Dynamic effects of oviposition site on offspring sexually-selected traits and scaling relationships

Christine W. Miller, Douglas J. Emlen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The expression of sexually-selected traits such as bright plumage, exaggerated antlers, and elongated eyestalks can be highly influenced by environmental factors, including the behaviors of mothers. Many recent studies have described the ways that maternal behavior can influence the expression of sexually-selected traits in offspring, however, few studies have investigated if and how such maternal effects might change, over time, in natural populations. Here, we examine the influence of maternal oviposition site on the expression of offspring sexually-selected traits in four successive cohorts of the heliconia bug, Leptoscelis tricolor (Hemiptera: Coreidae). Female heliconia bugs lay eggs on multiple host plant species, and offspring remain on these plants for the entirety of growth and development. We found that natal plant species had significant effects on the expression of male sexually-selected traits and the degree of sexual dimorphism. Moreover, these effects changed over time for later cohorts, concurrent with changes in host plant resources. Our results suggest that maternal effects can be a significant and dynamic influence on the sexually-selected traits of offspring. Such environmental effects on sexually-selected traits could have broad implications for the processes and outcomes of sexual selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-390
Number of pages16
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Allometry
  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Maternal effects
  • Scaling
  • Sexual selection


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