The evolution of indicator traits for parental quality: The role of maternal and paternal effects

Jason B. Wolf, Allen J. Moore, Edmund D. Brodie

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60 Citations (SciVal)


In systems where individuals provide material resources to their mates or offspring, mate choice based on traits that are phenotypically correlated with the quality of resources provided is expected to be adaptive. Several models have explored the evolution of mating preference where there are direct benefits to choice, but few have addressed how a phenotypic correlation can be established between a male indicator trait and the degree of parental investment. We present a model with three quantitative traits: male and female parental investment and a potential male indicator trait. In our model, the expression of the 'indicator' trait in offspring is affected by parental investment. These effects are referred to as maternal or paternal effects, or as 'indirect genetic effects' when parental investment is heritable. With genetic variation for degree of parental investment, offspring harbor genes for parental investment that are unexpressed before mating but will affect the investment that they provide when expressed. Because the investment received from the parents affects the expression of the indicator trait, there will be a correlation between the genes for parental investment inherited and the degree of expression of the indicator trait in the offspring. The indicator trait is thus an 'honest' signal for the degree of paternal investment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-649
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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