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Keywords:

  • Bioluminescence;
  • seminal nuptial gifts;
  • flightlessness;
  • life-history evolution;
  • male accessory glands;
  • neoteny;
  • sexual selection;
  • sexual signals

The beetle family Lampyridae (fireflies) encompasses ∼100 genera worldwide with considerable diversity in life histories and signaling modes. Some lampyrid males use reproductive accessory glands to produce spermatophores, which have been shown to increase female lifetime fecundity. Sexual dimorphism in the form of neotenic and flightless females is also common in this family. A major goal of this study was to test a hypothesized link between female flight ability and male spermatophore production. We examined macroevolutionary patterns to test for correlated evolution among different levels of female neoteny (and associated loss of flight ability), male accessory gland number (and associated spermatophore production), and sexual signaling mode. Trait reconstruction on a molecular phylogeny indicated that flying females and spermatophores were ancestral traits and that female neoteny increased monotonically and led to flightlessness within multiple lineages. In addition, male spermatophore production was lost multiple times. Our evolutionary trait analysis revealed significant correlations between increased female neoteny and male accessory gland number, as well as between flightlessness and spermatophore loss. In addition, female flightlessness was positively correlated with the use of glows as female sexual signal. Transition probability analysis supported an evolutionary sequence of female flightlessness evolving first, followed by loss of male spermatophores. These results contribute to understanding how spermatophores have evolved and how this important class of seminal nuptial gifts is linked to other traits, providing new insights into sexual selection and life-history evolution.