Indiscriminate females and choosy males: within- and between-species variation in Drosophila

Evolution. 2003 Sep;57(9):2037-45. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2003.tb00383.x.


The classic view of choosy, passive females and indiscriminate, competitive males gained theoretical foundations with parental investment theory. When females invest more in offspring than males, parental investment theory says that selection operates so that females discriminate among males for mates (i.e., females are choosy and passive) and males are indiscriminate (i.e., males are profligate and competitive). Here we report tests of predictions using Drosophila pseudoobscura and D. melanogaster, with typical asymmetry in gamete sizes (females > males), and in D. hydei with far less asymmetry in gamete size. Experimental observations revealed that the labels "choosy, passive females" and "profligate, indiscriminate males" did not capture the variation within and between species in premating behavior. In each of the species some females were as active in approaching males (or more so) than males in approaching females, and some males were as discriminating (or more so) than females. In pairs focal males and females responded differently to opposite-sex than to same-sex conspecifics. Drosophila hydei were less sex-role stereotyped than the other two species consistent with parental investment theory. However, D. pseudoobscura females approached males more often than did D. melanogaster females, and male D. hydei approached females as often as males of the other two species, both results inconsistent with parental investment theory. Male D. pseudoobscura and D. hydei were more likely to approach males in same-sex pairs than male D. melanogaster, inconsistent with parental investment theory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Germ Cells / cytology
  • Male
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Species Specificity