Sexual conflict in the penduline tits (Remizidae): implications for sperm competition and speciation

  • Alex Ball

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD

Abstract

This thesis explores the far-reaching impacts of sexual conflict over care on a suite of traits in the penduline tit family (Remizidae), further confirming the intricate relationships between parental care, mating systems and sexual selection. The results reveal the first genetic phylogeny of this family and suggest that uniparental care evolved once in this group. The transition to uniparental care is associated with rapid evolution of male plumage ornaments most likely driven by increased sexual selection. The results also suggest a relationship between male care and the likelihood of paternity on an evolutionary time-scale, as the biparental species exhibit much lower levels of promiscuity than the uniparental European penduline tit. Increased promiscuity was also found to impact sperm morphology in the penduline tits and allies with greater sperm length uniformity in more promiscuous species. This sperm trait was also discovered to co-vary with a sexually selected plumage trait in the European penduline tit suggesting potential interactions between female mate choice and male fertility. An investigation into genetic diversity within the Sylvioidea super-family finds large variation but does not suggest any link between promiscuity and genetic diversity as predicted if promiscuity maintains a higher effective population size in these passerines. The work highlights the interlinked relationships between parental care, mating systems and sexually selected traits, which are increasingly studied in concert. The consequences of sexual conflict over care appear to be far-reaching in the penduline tits, however the degree to which they feedback upon each other and the effect that it has on speciation remains to be seen. The penduline tits further prove their ability to provide valuable insight into the evolution of sexual conflict.
Date of Award10 Jun 2015
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTamas Szekely (Supervisor) & Stephen Dorus (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Sexual conflict
  • Penduline tit
  • Sperm morphology
  • Evolutionary ecology
  • Speciation

Cite this

Sexual conflict in the penduline tits (Remizidae): implications for sperm competition and speciation
Ball, A. (Author). 10 Jun 2015

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD