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Evolution. 2000 Apr;54(2):558-66.

Lifetime selection on adult body size and components of body size in a waterstrider: opposing selection and maintenance of sexual size dimorphism.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, United Kingdom.


Sexual size dimorphism (SSD), the difference in body size between males and females, is common in almost all taxa of animals and is generally assumed to be adaptive. Although sexual selection and fecundity selection alone have often been invoked to explain the evolution of SSD, more recent views indicate that the sexes must experience different lifetime selection pressures for SSD to evolve and be maintained. We estimated selection acting on male and female adult body size (total length) and components of body size in the waterstrider Aquarius remigis during three phases of life history. Opposing selection pressures for overall body size occurred in separate episodes of fitness for females in both years and for males in one year. Specific components of body size were often the targets of the selection on overall body size. When net adult fitness was estimated by combining each individual's fitnesses from all episodes, we found stabilizing selection in both sexes. In addition, the net optimum overall body size of males was smaller than that of females. However, even when components of body size had experienced opposing selection pressures in individual episodes, no components appeared to be under lifetime stabilizing selection. This is the first evidence that contemporary selection in a natural population acts to maintain female size larger than male size, the most common pattern of SSD in nature.

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