Royal Society Publishing


Models of sexual selection predict that females use ornament size to evaluate male condition. It has also been suggested that ornament asymmetry provides females with accurate information about condition. To test these ideas we experimentally manipulated condition in the stalk–eyed fly, Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni, by varying the amount of food available to developing larvae. Males of this species have greatly exaggerated eyestalk length and females prefer to mate with males with wider eyespans. Our experiments show that male ornaments (eyestalks) display a disproportionate sensitivity to condition compared with the homologous character in females, and to non–sexual traits (wing dimensions). In contrast, in neither sex did asymmetry reflect condition either in sexual ornaments or in non–sexual traits. We conclude that ornament size is likely to play a far greater role in sexual selection as an indicator of individual condition than does asymmetry.

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