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Keywords:

  • condition dependence;
  • Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni;
  • eyespan;
  • handicap;
  • ornament;
  • sexual selection;
  • Sphyracephala beccarri;
  • stalk-eyed flies

Abstract

Stalk-eyed flies are exemplars of sexual selection leading to the evolution of exaggerated male ornaments (eyespan). In Sphyracephala beccarri, there is no evidence for female mate choice for exaggerated male eyespan and only minor sex differences in eyespan. We used S. beccarri to test whether heightened condition dependence only evolves when male eyespan becomes sexually exaggerated. Male eyespan showed heightened condition dependence under food stress compared with a control trait (wing length). However, female eyespan displayed a similar pattern and there was no sex difference in the degree of increased eyespan sensitivity. The finding that eyespan is a sensitive indicator of food stress, even in an unexaggerated state, suggests that this may have acted as a pre-adaptation to the role of eyespan in sexual signalling in other Diopsid species. These results are consistent with handicap theory and Fisher's view of how sexual selection is initiated.