Age and size at maturity can have significant fitness consequences. Selection often favors early-maturing individuals because of their higher survival to maturity and greater relative contribution to population growth rate, but it may also favor delayed maturation if fitness increases with age or size at maturity. Males of several poeciliid fishes exhibit variation in age and size at maturity primarily controlled by a sex-linked gene called the P-locus. Wild-caught Phallichthys quadripunctatus males show a bimodal size distribution, which is often associated with a P-locus polymorphism in other poeciliids. We conducted two experiments to evaluate the inheritance of male age and size at maturity and the influence of social environment (presence of mature or juvenile males during development) on these traits. We specifically tested the hypothesis that male age and size at maturity in P. quadripunctatus are governed by a single Y-linked locus, and modified by the social environment. Although our results imply both a genetic and an environmental component to the dimorphism in maturation, both large and small males were able to sire both large and small sons, allowing us to reject the hypothesis that age and size at maturity in this species are controlled by a single, Y-linked locus. Our data do not conform adequately to any of the genetic mechanisms described to date for maturation polymorphism in poeciliids. We suggest alternative mechanisms that may operate in P. quadripunctatus.



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