On the evolution of heightened condition dependence of male sexual displays

J Evol Biol. 2011 Mar;24(3):685-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02205.x. Epub 2011 Jan 7.


The maintenance of genetic variation in male sexual display traits in the face of strong directional sexual selection from female preferences is an ongoing evolutionary conundrum. Condition dependence and the genic capture hypothesis are often cited as theoretical resolutions to this problem, yet little is known about the ability of condition dependence itself to evolve. We set out to test how a suite of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) used in sexual displays are affected by adult diet and the potential for any condition-dependent response to evolve in a laboratory-adapted population of the Australian fruit fly Drosophila serrata. We performed a dietary manipulation within a half-sib breeding design, raising adult males either with or without access to live yeast, a manipulation that had previously shown strong effects on female fitness. Diet had strong phenotypic effects, with males from the different diets producing different CHC blends. The blend of CHCs under sexual selection showed a degree of elevated condition dependence. Regardless of the heightened sensitivity of favoured CHC blends to diet and the presence of genetic variance for the traits, we were unable to detect any genetic variance in the reaction norms for the male dietary response. Our results suggest that there is limited opportunity for males to evolve further condition dependence in response to yeast availability in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Integumentary System
  • Male
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*


  • Hydrocarbons