Frequency-dependent selection may drive adaptive diversification within species. It is yet unclear why the occurrence of alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) is highly divergent between major animal taxa. Here we aim to clarify the environmental and social conditions favouring the evolution of intra-population variance of male reproductive phenotypes. Our results suggest that genetically determined ARTs that are fixed for life evolve when there is strong selection on body size due to size-dependent competitiveness, in combination with environmental factors reducing size benefits. The latter may result from growth costs or, more generally, from age-dependent but size-independent mortality causes. This generates disruptive selection on growth trajectories underlying tactic choice. In many parameter settings, the model also predicts ARTs to evolve that are flexible and responsive to current conditions. Interestingly, the conditions favouring the evolution of flexible tactics diverge considerably from those favouring genetic variability. Nevertheless, in a restricted but relevant parameter space, our model predicts the simultaneous emergence and maintenance of a mixture of multiple tactics, both genetically and conditionally determined. Important conditions for the emergence of ARTs include size variation of competitors, which is inherently greater in species with indeterminate growth than in taxa reproducing only after reaching their terminal body size. This is probably the reason why ARTs are more common in fishes than in other major taxa.
- Received December 15, 2015.
- Accepted February 3, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.