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When breeding, male moor frogs Rana arvalis develop a bright blue dorsal coloration which varies in intensity between males. We tested whether this colour acts as a potential signal of a male's genetic quality to female moor frogs by artificially crossing pairs of males differing in the extent of the blue coloration to the same female. Maternal half-sibships provide a powerful means to detect paternal genetic effects on offspring as they control for other potentially confounding variables. We assayed the ability of offspring to survive an ecologically realistic test of fitness by exposing them to predation by the larvae of the predatory water beetle Dytiscus marginalis. Although sire's coloration did not influence tadpole body size, it did affect their ability to survive the predation trial. Offspring of bright blue males had higher survival than those of dull males when exposed to large predators, which were more voracious predators than smaller ones. Our results indicate that paternal secondary sexual traits provide information about genetic effects on offspring fitness in this species, but suggest that these effects may be context-dependent. Variable selection caused by contextual dependence may have important consequences for the evolution of female choice rules, and for the maintenance of genetic variation for both male trait and female preference.


Journal article


J Evol Biol

Publication Date





1288 - 1295


Adaptation, Physiological, Animals, Female, Larva, Male, Pigmentation, Predatory Behavior, Ranidae, Reproduction, Risk Factors, Sex Characteristics, Survival Analysis