Social Network Position Experiences More Variable Selection Than Weaponry In Wild Subpopulations Of Forked Fungus Beetles

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Journal Of Animal Ecology


The phenotypic expression and fitness consequences of behaviours that are exhibited during social interactions are especially sensitive to their local social context. This context‐dependence is expected to generate more variation in the sign and magnitude of selection on social behaviour than that experienced by static characters like morphology. Relatively few studies, however, have examined selection on behavioural traits in multiple populations. We estimated sexual selection in the wild to determine if the strength and form of selection on social phenotypes is more variable than that on morphology. We compared selection gradients on social network position, body size, and weaponry of male forked fungus beetles Bolitotherus cornutus as they influenced mating success across nine natural subpopulations. Male horn length consistently experienced positive sexual selection. However, the sign and magnitude of selection on individual measures of network centrality (strength and betweenness) differed significantly among subpopulations. Moreover, selection on social behaviours occurred at a local scale (‘soft selection’), whereas selection on horn length occurred at the metapopulation scale (‘hard selection’). These results indicate that an individual with a given social phenotype could experience different fitness consequences depending on the network it occupies. While individuals seem to be unable to escape the fitness effects of their morphology, they may have the potential to mediate the pressures of selection on behavioural phenotypes by moving among subpopulations or altering social connections within a network.


Bolitotherus cornutus, hard selection, interacting phenotypes, male combat, mating success, permutation, soft selection, spatial variation