" Although sexual dimorphism is widespread in nature, its evolutionary causes often remain elusive. Here we report a case where a sex-specific conflicting functional demand related to parental care, but not to sexual selection, explains sexual dimorphism in a primarily trophic structure, the gill rakers of cichlid fishes. More specifically, we examined gill raker length in a representative set of cichlid fish species from Lake Tanganyika featuring three different parental care strategies: (i) uni-parental mouthbrooding, whereby only one parental sex incubates the eggs in the buccal cavity; (ii) bi-parental mouthbrooding, whereby both parents participate in mouthbrooding; and (iii) nest guarding without any mouthbrooding involved. As predicted from these different parental care strategies, we find sexual dimorphism in gill raker length to be present only in uni-parental mouthbrooders, but not in bi-parental mouthbrooders nor in nest guarders. Moreover, variation in the extent of sexual dimorphism among uni-parental mouthbrooders appears to be related to trophic ecology. Overall, we present a previously unrecognized scenario for the evolution of sexual dimorphism that is not related to sexual selection or initial niche divergence between sexes. Instead, sexual dimorphism in gill raker length in uni-parental mouthbrooding cichlid fish appears to be the consequence of a sex-specific functional trade-off between a trophic function present in both sexes and a reproductive function present only in the brooding sex "
Classification: Physiology and diseases, Lake Tanganyika.
Ronco, Fabrizia & M. Roesti, W. Salzburger. 2019. "A functional trade-off between trophic adaptation and parental care predicts sexual dimorphism in cichlid fish". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. v. 286(n. 1909), pp. 1-8 (crc09483) (abstract)