Royal Society Publishing

The Lek Paradox and the Capture of Genetic Variance by Condition Dependent Traits

Locke Rowe, David Houle


Recent evidence suggests that sexually selected traits have unexpectedly high genetic variance. In this paper, we offer a simple and general mechanism to explain this observation. Our explanation offers a resolution to the lek paradox and rests on only two assumptions; condition dependence of sexually selected traits and high genetic variance in condition. The former assumption is well supported by empirical evidence. We discuss the evidence for the latter assumption. These two assumptions lead inevitably to the capture of genetic variance into sexually selected traits concomitantly with the evolution of condition dependence. We present a simple genetic model to illustrate this view. We then explore some implications of genic capture for the coevolution of female preference and male traits. Our exposition of this problem incidentally leads to new insights into the similarities between sexually selected traits and life history traits, and therefore into the maintenance of high genetic variance in the latter. Finally, we discuss some shortcomings of a recently proposed alternative solution to the lek paradox; selection on variance.

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