New paper in eLife


Contrasting parental roles shape sex differences in poison frog space use but not navigational performance

Pašukonis A, Serrano-Rojas SJ, Fischer M-T, Loretto M-C, Shaykevich DA, Rojas B, Ringler M, Roland AB, Marcillo-Lara A, Ringler E, Rodríguez C, Coloma LA, O'Connell LA. 2022. 
eLife 11:e80483. Published online 15 November 2022


Sex differences in vertebrate spatial abilities are typically interpreted under the adaptive specialization hypothesis, which posits that male reproductive success is linked to larger home ranges and better navigational skills. The androgen spillover hypothesis counters that enhanced male spatial performance may be a byproduct of higher androgen levels. Animal groups that include species where females are expected to outperform males based on life-history traits are key for disentangling these hypotheses. We investigated the association between sex differences in reproductive strategies, spatial behavior, and androgen levels in three species of poison frogs. We tracked individuals in natural environments to show that contrasting parental sex roles shape sex differences in space use, where the sex performing parental duties shows wider-ranging movements. We then translocated frogs from their home areas to test their navigational performance and found that the caring sex outperformed the non-caring sex only in one out of three species. In addition, males across species displayed more explorative behavior than females and androgen levels correlated with explorative behavior and homing accuracy. Overall, we reveal that poison frog reproductive strategies shape movement patterns but not necessarily navigational performance. Together this work suggests that prevailing adaptive hypotheses provide an incomplete explanation of sex differences in spatial abilities.

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