Food availability is expected to influence the relative cost of different mating tactics, but little attention has been paid to this potential source of adaptive geographic variation in behavior. Associations between the frequency of different mating tactics and resource availability could arise because tactic use responds directly to food intake (phenotypic plasticity), because populations exposed to different average levels of food availability have diverged genetically in tactic use, or both. Different populations of guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in Trinidad experience different average levels of food availability. We combined field observations with laboratory “common garden” and diet experiments to examine how this environmental gradient has influenced the evolution of male mating tactics. Three independent components of variation in male behavior were found in the field: courtship versus foraging, dominance interactions, and interference competition versus searching for mates. Compared with low-food-availability sites, males at high-food-availability sites devoted more effort to interference competition. This difference disappeared in the common garden experiment, which suggests that it was caused by phenotypic plasticity and not genetic divergence. In the diet experiment, interference competition was more frequent and intense among males raised on the greater of two food levels, but this was only true for fish descended from sites with low food availability. Thus, the association between interference competition and food availability in the field can be attributed to a genetically variable norm of reaction. Genetically variable norms of reaction with respect to food intake were found for the other two behavioral components as well and are discussed in relation to the patterns observed in the field. Our results indicate that food availability gradients are an important, albeit complex, source of geographic variation in male mating strategies.



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