Exaggerated male eye span influences contest outcome in stalk-eyed flies (Diopsidae)
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Evolution of male weapons or status signals has been hypothesized to precede evolution of female mating preferences for those traits. We used staged male fights among three species of Malaysian stalk-eyed flies (Diptera: Diopsidae) to determine if elongated eye span, which is preferred by females in two sexually dimorphic species, influences contest outcome. Extreme sexual dimorphism, with large males possessing longer eye span than females, is shared by Cyrtodiopsis whitei and C. dalmanni. In contrast, C. quinqueguttata exhibits a more ancestral condition – short, sexually monomorphic eye stalks. Videotape analysis of 20-min paired contests revealed that males with larger eye span and body size won more fights in the dimorphic, but not monomorphic, species. To determine if males from the dimorphic species use eye span directly to resolve contests, we competed male C. dalmanni from lines that had undergone artificial selection for 30 generations to increase or decrease eye span. We found that eye span, independently of body size, determines contest outcome in selected-line males. Furthermore, in both dimorphic species, the average encounter duration declined as the eye span difference between contestants increased, as expected if males use eye span to assess opponent size. The number of encounters also increased with age in dimorphic, but not monomorphic, species. Selected-line males did not differ from outbred males in either fight duration or number of encounters. We conclude that exaggerated male eye stalks evolved to influence both competitive interactions and female mating preferences in these spectacular flies.
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