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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Dec;33(3):706-18.

Labile male morphology and intraspecific male polymorphism in the Philotrypesis fig wasps.

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  • 1Department of Genetics University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa.


We investigate the evolution of male morphology in the fig wasps belonging to the genus Philotrypesis (Chalcidoidea, Sycorectinae). We first reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of Philotrypesis associated with African figs using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. We then determine male morphotypes in the species included in our phylogeny and show that intraspecific polymorphism is common. Most species present two types of males and some species have up to three types. These morphotypes are believed to represent alternative mating tactics: some males show morphological adaptations to fighting, others are winged dispersers and others are small sneakers. Mapping out these variations onto our phylogeny reveals that the combination of morphs changes randomly along the branches of the tree. Both parsimony and likelihood approaches indicate that there has been at least one transition from dimorphism to trimorphism, several gains and losses of the small morph and two independent acquisitions of the winged morph. Using maximum likelihood analyses of character evolution, we estimate transition rates for each morph and show that the evolution of each type of morph are not correlated and that forward and backward transition rates are not significantly different. Our results altogether suggest that male morphology is evolutionary labile, it responds quickly to selection imposed by the mating environment. This study, also suggests that seemingly complex phenotypes, such as winged males, can evolve several times and can even be recreated after having been lost.

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