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The fitness effects of a pale mutant in the aposematic seed bug Lygaeus simulans indicate pleiotropy between warning coloration and life history

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Vicki L. Balfour, Cédric Aumont, Liam R. Dougherty, David M. Shuker

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Abstract

Conspicuous warning colors that signal chemical or other defenses are common in the natural world. For instance, such aposematic warning patterns of red-and-black or yellow-and-black are common among insect taxa, particularly in the order Hemiptera, often forming the basis of Batesian and/or Müllerian mimicry rings. In addition, it has been repeatedly noted that color polymorphisms or mutants that influence pigmentation can show pleiotropy with other behavioral, physiological, or life-history traits. Here, we describe a pale mutant of the seed bug Lygaeus simulans that appeared in our laboratory population in 2012, which differs in color to the wild-type bugs. Through multigenerational experimental crosses between wild-type and pale mutant L. simulans, we first show that the pale phenotype segregates as a single Mendelian locus, with the pale allele being recessive to the wild type. Next, we show (a) that there is a large heterozygous advantage in terms of fecundity, (b) that pale females suffer reduced longevity, and (c) that pale males have increased body length compared to wild-type homozygotes. Our data therefore suggest that the color locus is pleiotropic with a number of life-history traits, opening the door for a more complete genetic analysis of aposematic coloration in this species. In addition, this phenotype will be useful as a visible genetic marker, providing a tool for investigating sperm competition and other post-copulatory drivers of sexual selection in this species.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12855-12866
Number of pages12
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume8
Issue number24
Early online date4 Dec 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

    Research areas

  • Aposematism, Color polymorphism, Life-history, Pleiotropy, Supergene

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