Perspective: female remating, operational sex ratio, and the arena of sexual selection in Drosophila species

Evolution. 2002 Sep;56(9):1725-34. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2002.tb00186.x.


As commonly observed among closely related species within a variety of taxa, Drosophila species differ considerably in whether they exhibit sexual dimorphism in coloration or morphology. Those Drosophila species in which male external sexual characters are minimal or absent tend, instead, to have exaggerated ejaculate traits such as sperm gigantism or seminal nutrient donations. Underlying explanations for the interspecific differences in the presence of external morphological sexual dimorphism versus exaggerated ejaculate traits are addressed here by examining the opportunity for sexual selection on males to occur before versus after mating in 21 species of Drosophila. Female remating frequency, an important component of the operational sex ratio, differs widely among Drosophila species and appears to dictate whether the arena of sexual selection is prior to, as opposed to after, copulation. Infrequent female mating results in fewer mating opportunities for males and thus stronger competition for receptive females that favors the evolution of male characters that maximize mating success. On the other hand, rapid female remating results in overlapping ejaculates in the female reproductive tract, such that ejaculate traits which enhance fertilization success are favored. The strong association between female remating frequency in a given species and the presence of sexually selected external versus internal male characters indicates that the relationship be examined in other taxa as well.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / classification
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • Reproduction
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sex Ratio
  • Sex*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*