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Evolution. 2004 Mar;58(3):597-607.

Sexual selection for size and symmetry in a diversifying secondary sexual character in Drosophila bipectinata Duda (Diptera: Drosophilidae).

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0006, USA.


Results of intrapopulation studies of sexual selection and genetic variation and covariation underlying elements of the sex comb of Drosophila bipectinata are presented. The magnitude of the sex comb, a sexual ornament, varies significantly among Australasian populations, motivating research into the evolutionary mechanisms responsible for its incipient diversification. The comb is composed of stout black teeth on the front legs of males arranged in three distinct segments: C1, C2, and C3. Significant sexual selection in field populations in northeastern Queensland, Australia, was detected for increasing C2 and body size, and simultaneously for reducing comb positional fluctuating asymmetry. In contrast, sexual selection was not detected for other comb segments, nor for sternopleural bristle number or symmetry. Selection intensities for C2 and comb positional fluctuating asymmetry were similar in magnitude, and although they were opposite in sign, values across twelve sampling dates, or selection episodes, were uncorrelated. Heritability estimates for C2 were high and significant across years, whereas heritability estimates for comb positional asymmetry were small, and generally nonsignificant. The major sex comb segments (C1 and C2) were significantly and positively correlated genetically, indicating the potential for correlated evolution of these components of the comb under sexual selection. The original finding of a significant positive genetic correlation between the magnitude of this sex trait and its positional asymmetry indicates that the counteracting and independent selection pressures detected could contribute to the maintenance of genetic variation sustaining sexual selection. The study documents the simultaneous presence of sexual selection in nature and of heritable genetic variation underlying expression of the sex comb, fundamental conditions necessary for its adaptive diversification. Drosophila bipectinata may be a valuable model for studies of adaptive diversification and incipient speciation by sexual selection.

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