Determining the costs of sexual ornaments is complicated by the fact that ornaments are often integrated with other, nonsexual traits, making it difficult to dissect the effect of ornaments independent of other aspects of the phenotype. Hybridization can produce reduced phenotypic integration, allowing one to evaluate performance across a broad range of multivariate trait values. Here we assess the relationship between morphology and performance in the swordtails Xiphophorus malinche and X. birchmanni, two naturally-hybridizing fish species that differ extensively in non-sexual as well as sexual traits. We took advantage of novel trait variation in hybrids to determine if sexual ornaments incur a cost in terms of locomotor ability. For both fast-start and endurance swimming, hybrids performed at least as well as the two parental species. The sexually-dimorphic sword did not impair swimming performance per se. Rather, the sword negatively affected performance only when paired with a sub-optimal body shape. Studies seeking to quantify the costs of ornaments should consider that covariance with non-sexual traits may create the spurious appearance of costs.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2014 Johnson et al.