The level of expression of sexually selected traits is generally determined by genes, environment and their interaction. In species that use multiple sexual signals which may be costly to produce, investing in the expression of one sexual signal may limit the expression of the other, favoring the evolution of a strategy for resource allocation among signals. As a result, even when the expression of sexual signals is condition dependent, the relative level of expression of each signal may be heritable. We tested this hypothesis in the East-Mediterranean barn swallow ( Hirundo rustica transitiva), in which males have been shown to express two uncorrelated sexual signals: red-brown ventral coloration, and long tail streamers. We show that variation in both signals may partially be explained by age, as well as by paternal origin (genetic father-son regressions), but that the strongest similarity between fathers and sons is the relative allocation towards one trait or the other (relative expression index), rather than the expression of the traits themselves. These results suggest that the expression of one signal is not independent of the other, and that genetic strategies for resource allocation among sexual signals may be selected for during the evolution of multiple sexual signals.
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© 2015 Vortman et al.