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Conditions for the Trivers-Willard hypothesis to be valid: A minimal population-genetic model

Joshi, NV (2000) Conditions for the Trivers-Willard hypothesis to be valid: A minimal population-genetic model. In: Journal of Genetics, 79 (1). pp. 9-15.


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The very insightful Trivers-Willard hypothesis, proposed in the early 1970s, states that females in good physiological conditions are more likely to produce male offspring, when the variance of reproductive success amongst males is high. The hypothesis has inspired a number of studies over the last three decades aimed at its experimental verification, and many of them have found adequate supportive evidence in its favour. Theoretical investigations, on the other hand, have been few, perhaps because formulating a population-genetic model for describing the Trivers-Willard hypothesis turns out to be surprisingly complex. The present study is aimed at using a minimal population genetic model to explore one specific scenario, viz. how is the preference for a male offspring by females in good condition altered when 'g', the proportion of such females in the population changes from a low to a high value. As expected, when the proportion of such females in good condition is low in the population, i.e., for low values of 'g', the Trivers-Willard (TW) strategy goes to fixation against the equal investment strategy. This holds true up to gmax, a critical value of 'g', above which the two strategies coexist, but the proportion of the TW strategy steadily decreases as 'g' increases to unity. Similarly, when the effect of well-endowed males attaining disproportionately high number of matings is more pronounced, the TW strategy is more likely to go to fixation. Interestingly, the success of the TW strategy has a complex dependence on the variance in the physiological condition of females. If the difference in the two types of conditions is not large, TW strategy is favoured, and its success is more likely as the difference increases. However, beyond a critical value of the difference, the TW strategy is found to be less and less likely to succeed as the difference becomes larger. Possible reasons for these effects are discussed.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: The copyright belongs to Indian Academy of Sciences.
Keywords: Trivers-Willard model;Evolutionarily Stable Strategy;ESS;Maternal investment;mathematical model
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Depositing User: N. V. Joshi
Date Deposited: 03 May 2006
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 04:26
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/6539

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