Spatiotemporal variation in selection on body size in the dung fly Sepsis cynipsea


Blanckenhorn Dr Zoologisches Museum, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland. Tel: +41 1 635 4972; fax: +41 1 635 6826; e-mail:


Standardized measures of the strength of selection on a character allow quantitative comparisons across populations in time and space. Spatiotemporal variation in selection influences patterns of adaptation and the evolution of characters and must therefore be documented. For the dung-breeding fly Sepsis cynipsea, we document patterns of variation in sexual, fecundity and larval and adult viability selection on body size at several spatiotemporal scales: between-populations, over the season, over the day and between dung pats. Adult viability selection based on residual physiological survivorship in the laboratory was nil or weakly negative. In contrast, larval viability selection in two laboratory environments was weakly positive for males at low competition and females at high competition. Fecundity selection was positive and strong at all times and in all populations. Sexual selection reflecting pairing success was overall strongly positive (about three times stronger than fecundity selection), while selection reflecting male reproductive success via the clutch size of his mate (i.e. assortative mating) was essentially nil. Only sexual selection varied significantly at coarse (between populations and seasonally) but not at fine (within a day or between pats on a pasture) spatial and temporal scales. Quadratic and correlational selection differentials were low and inconsistent in all episodes except for fecundity selection, where there was some evidence that clutch size reaches an asymptote at large body sizes, implying weaker selection for large size as females get bigger. Implications of these results for the evolution of body size and body size dimorphism are discussed.