Harm to females increases with male body size in Drosophila melanogaster

Scott Pitnick, Francisco García–González

Abstract

Previous studies indicate that female Drosophila melanogaster are harmed by their mates through copulation. Here, we demonstrate that the harm that males inflict upon females increases with male size. Specifically, both the lifespan and egg–production rate of females decreased significantly as an increasing function of the body size of their mates. Consequently, females mating with larger males had lower lifetime fitness. The detrimental effect of male size on female longevity was not mediated by male effects on female fecundity, egg–production rate or female–remating behaviour. Similarly, the influence of male size on female lifetime fecundity was independent of the male–size effect on female longevity. There was no relationship between female size and female resistance to male harm. Thus, although increasing male body size is known to enhance male mating success, it has a detrimental effect on the direct fitness of their mates. Our results indicate that this harm is a pleiotropic effect of some other selected function and not an adaptation. To the extent that females prefer to mate with larger males, this choice is harmful, a pattern that is consistent with the theory of sexually antagonistic coevolution.