Abstracts (first author)
Sex in murky waters: anthropogenic disturbance of sexual selection in the pipefish model system
Due to anthropogenic disturbance, both stable as well as naturally variable environments are becoming increasingly unpredictable. In order to persist, both opportunists and specialists need to respond to these changes. A variety of animal behaviours are thus affected by human induced environmental change, which in turn may alter species interactions, population dynamics and evolutionary processes. In marine ecosystems, overfishing, eutrophication, and ocean acidification is currently changing the aquatic environment at an unnatural speed. We use pipefish as our study organism, which is a family of highly specialized marine fish practicing male pregnancy. Through a series of controlled laboratory experiments we show that anthropogenic disturbance alter several aspects of reproduction, including the development of sexual ornaments, courtship behaviour, mate choice, mating propensity and reproductive success. We show that the way in which the environmental stressors alter reproductive behaviours may vary both between and within sexes, populations and species. Further, different environmental stressors, such as turbidity, hypoxia and altered pH levels, elicited different responses, sometimes in opposite directions. Thus our studies emphasises the complex way in which environmental change may alter reproductive behaviours. Given the increase in human disturbance on ecosystems, answering these questions is not only important to better understand how environmental fluctuations affect evolutionary processes, but also for conservation biology and studies of the resilience of organisms to anthropogenic induced environmental change.