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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56299. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056299. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

Variation in male mate choice in Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom. dedward@liv.ac.uk

Abstract

Male mate choice has been reported in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, even though males of this species were previously thought to maximise their fitness by mating with all available females. To understand the evolution of male mate choice it is important to understand variation in male mating preferences. Two studies, using different stock populations and different methods, have reported contrasting patterns of variation in male mate choice in D. melanogaster. Two possible explanations are that there are evolved differences in each stock population or that the methods used to measure choice could have biased the results. We investigated these hypotheses here by repeating the methods used in one study in which variable male mate choice was found, using the stock population from the other study in which choice was not variable. The results showed a significant resource-independent male preference for less fecund, smaller females, which contrasts with previous observations of male mate choice. This indicates that different selection pressures between populations have resulted in evolved differences in the expression of male mate choice. It also reveals phenotypic plasticity in male mate choice in response to cues encountered in each choice environment. The results highlight the importance of variation in male mate choice, and of identifying mechanisms in order to understand the evolution of mate choice under varying ecological conditions.

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