Sex in a material world: Why the study of sexual reproduction and sex-specific traits should become more nutritionally-explicit

Nathan I. Morehouse, Takefumi Nakazawa, Christina M. Booher, Punidan D. Jeyasingh, Matthew D. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recent advances in nutritional ecology, particularly arising from Ecological Stoichiometry and the Geometric Framework for nutrition, have resulted in greater theoretical coherence and increasingly incisive empirical methodologies that in combination allow for the consideration of nutrient-related processes at many levels of biological complexity. However, these advances have not been consistently integrated into the study of sexual differences in reproductive investment, despite contemporary emphasis on the material costs associated with sexually selected traits (e.g. condition-dependence of exaggerated ornaments). Nutritional ecology suggests that material costs related to sex-specific reproductive traits should be linked to quantifiable underlying differences in the relationship between individuals of each sex and their foods. Here, we argue that applying nutritionally-explicit thought to the study of sexual reproduction should both deepen current understanding of sex-specific phenomena and broaden the tractable frontiers of sexual selection research. In support of this general argument, we examine the causes and consequences of sex-specific nutritional differences, from food selection and nutrient processing to sex-specific reproductive traits. At each level of biological organization, we highlight how a nutritionally-explicit perspective may provide new insights and help to identify new directions. Based on predictions derived at the individual level, we then consider how sex-specific nutrient limitation might influence population growth, and thus potentially broader patterns of life history evolution, using a simple population dynamics model. We conclude by highlighting new avenues of research that may be more accessible from this integrative perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766-778
Number of pages13
JournalOikos
Volume119
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010 May 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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