Plasticity in reproductive behaviours as a response to ecological changes

  • Miguel Gómez

Student thesis: Phd


The thesis presented here utilizes a variety of methods and study systems to address how ecological promote plasticity in reproductive behaviours. We study mate choice, copulation and parental care as the different reproductive behaviours, as they can be envisioned as representatives of different stages of the reproductive cycle and can be subject to different selection pressures. With the use of computer simulations we study the conditions of sex ratio and cost of courting under which a learned mate preference in males or in both sexes can evolve. We found that for males, maternal imprinting is the most advantageous imprinting strategy, but when both sexes imprint, paternal imprinting in both sexes is the most advantageous strategy. We show that environmental change can lead to the evolution of sexual imprinting by both sexes. A study using mesocosm and mating trial experiments, measuring female survival and male mating success was used to study the role of intra- and interspecific interactions in mating behaviour (competition and harassment) in Calopteryx splendens. We showed that intense intraspecific male-male competition reduces harassment over females and increases female survival. On the other side, interspecific reproductive interference can reduce male mating success and can increase female survival. Finally, theory on the use of social learning was tested using Drosophila melanogaster oviposition site choice. We show that fruit flies use social learning more after they experience heterogeneous environments. However, our results suggest that the use of social learning was driven by fruit flies signalling more when they experience heterogeneous environments, instead of driven by copying others decisions, as theoretical predictions suggest. We also show that the use of social learning is an innate trait, opening the opportunity for the study of the genomic basis of social learning.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorEva Navarro Lopez (Supervisor) & Robert Gilman (Supervisor)


  • sexual selection
  • plasticity

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