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Evolution. 2004 Aug;58(8):1861-4.

Opposing selection on a sexually dimorphic trait through female choice and male competition in a water boatman.

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  • 1Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Female choice and male-male competition are traditionally considered to act in concert, with male competition facilitating female choice. This situation would enforce the strength of directional selection, which could reduce genetic variation and thus the benefits of choice. Here I show that in a water boatman, Sigara falleni, the direction of selection through female choice and male competition vary among traits under laboratory conditions. The two forces were mutually enforcive in acting on body size but exerted opposing selection on a sexually selected trait, male foreleg pala size. Female choice favored large palae, whereas male competition favored smaller palae, suggesting that large palae are costly in competition. This conflicting selection through female choice and male competition could be one of the forces that contribute to the maintenance of genetic variation in sexually selected traits.

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