The role of maternal and paternal effects in the evolution of parental quality by sexual selection

J. B. Wolf, E. D. Brodie, A. J. Moore

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39 Citations (SciVal)


Genetic models of maternal effects and models of mate choice have focused on the evolutionary effects of variation in parental quality. There have been, however, few attempts to combine these into a single model for the evolution of sexually selected traits. We present a quantitative genetic model that considers how male and female parental quality (together or separately) affect the expression of a sexually selected offspring trait. We allow female choice of males based on this parentally affected trait and examine the evolution Of mate choice, parental quality and the indicator trait. Our model reveals a number of consequences of maternal and paternal effects. (I)The force of sexual selection owing to adaptive mate choice can displace parental quality from its natural selection optimum. (2) The force of sexual selection can displace female parental quality from its natural selection optimum even when nonadaptive mate choice occurs (e.g. runaway sexual selection), because females of higher parental quality produce more attractive sons and these sons counterbalance the loss in fitness owing to over-investment in each offspring. (3) Maternal and paternal effects can provide a source-of genetic variation for offspring traits, allowing evolution by sexual selection even when those traits do not show direct genetic variation (i.e. are not heritable). (4)The correlation between paternal investment and the offspring trait influenced by the parental effects can result in adaptive mate choice and lead to the elaboration of both female preference and the male sexually selected trait. When parental effects exist, sexual selection can drive the evolution of parental quality when investment increases the attractiveness of offspring, leading to the elaboration of indicator traits and higher than expected levels of parental investment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1157-1167
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 1999


  • Indicator traits
  • Indirect genetic effects
  • Mate choice
  • Maternal effects
  • Parental investment
  • Paternal effects
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Sexual selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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