Phenotypic and genetic integration of personality and growth under competition in the sheepshead swordtail, Xiphophorus birchmanni Academic Article uri icon


  • Competition for resources including food, physical space, and potential mates is a fundamental ecological process shaping variation in individual phenotype and fitness. The evolution of competitive ability, in particular social dominance, depends on genetic (co)variation among traits causal (e.g., behavior) or consequent (e.g., growth) to competitive outcomes. If dominance is heritable, it will generate both direct and indirect genetic effects (IGE) on resource-dependent traits. The latter are expected to impose evolutionary constraint because winners necessarily gain resources at the expense of losers. We varied competition in a population of sheepshead swordtails, Xiphophorus birchmanni, to investigate effects on behavior, size, growth, and survival. We then applied quantitative genetic analyses to determine (i) whether competition leads to phenotypic and/or genetic integration of behavior with life history and (ii) the potential for IGE to constrain life history evolution. Size, growth, and survival were reduced at high competition. Male dominance was repeatable and dominant individuals show higher growth and survival. Additive genetic contributions to phenotypic covariance were significant, with the G matrix largely recapitulating phenotypic relationships. Social dominance has a low but significant heritability and is strongly genetically correlated with size and growth. Assuming causal dependence of growth on dominance, hidden IGE will therefore reduce evolutionary potential.

altmetric score

  • 8.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Boulton, K., Walling, C. A., Grimmer, A. J., Rosenthal, G. G., & Wilson, A. J.

citation count

  • 9

publication date

  • November 2017