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Keywords:

  • Drosophila serrata;
  • male mate choice;
  • sexual selection;
  • stabilizing selection

Abstract

We know very little about male mating preferences and how they influence the evolution of female traits. Theory predicts that males may benefit from choosing females on the basis of traits that indicate their fecundity. Here, we explore sexual selection generated by male choice on two components of female body size (wing length and body mass) in Drosophila serrata. Using a dietary manipulation to alter female size and 828 male mate choice trials, we analysed linear and nonlinear sexual selection gradients on female mass and wing length. In contrast to theoretical expectations and prevailing empirical data, males exerted stabilizing rather than directional sexual selection on female body mass, a correlate of fecundity. Sexual selection was detected only among females with access to standard resource levels as an adult, with no evidence for sexual selection among resource-depleted females. Thus the mating success of females with the same body mass differed depending upon their access to resources as an adult. This suggests that males in this species may rely on signal traits to assess body mass rather than assessing it directly. Stabilizing rather than directional sexual selection on body mass together with recent evidence for stabilizing sexual selection on candidate signal traits in this species suggests that females may trade-off resources allocated to reproduction and sexual signalling.