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The quantitative genetics of sexual selection in the dung fly Sepsis cynipsea

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In the common dung or black scavenger fly Sepsis cynipsea (Diptera: Sepsidae) several morphological and behavioural male and female traits interact during mating. Previous studies show that males attempt to mount females without courtship, females use vigorous shaking behaviour in response to male mounting, the duration of shaking is an indicator of both direct and indirect female choice and sexual conflict, and larger males enjoy a mating advantage. We conducted a quantitative genetic paternal half sib study to investigate the genetic underpinnings of these traits, notably body size (the preferred trait) and the associated female preference, and to assess the relative importance of various models generally proposed to account for the evolution of sexually selected traits. Several morphological traits and female shaking duration were heritable, thus meeting a key requirement of all sexual selection models. In contrast, two traits indicative of male persistence in mating were not. Male longevity was also heritable and negatively correlated with his mating effort, suggesting a mating cost. However, the crucial genetic correlation between male body size and female shaking duration, predicted to be negative by both 'good genes' and Fisherian models and positive by the sexual conflict (or chase-away) model, was zero. This could be because of low power, or because of constraints imposed by the genetic correlation structure. Based on our rsults we conclude that discriminating sexual selection models by sole means of quantitative genetics is difficult, if not impossible.


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