Differential genotypic effects of sexual trait size on offspring mating success and viability

Michal Polak*, Kerry V. Fanson, Phillip W. Taylor, Sarsha Yap

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Indicator models of sexual selection predict that females mating with the most ornamented males should produce offspring with enhanced expression of fitness-related traits, such as overall vigor and viability. Empirical support for this prediction, however, is limited. We quantified the effects of a heritable and condition-dependent secondary sexual trait on offspring performance traits in Drosophila bipectinata Duda (Diptera: Drosophilidae). Forty-eight genetic (isofemale) lines were extracted from a natural population, reared in a common environment, and characterized in terms of sex comb size. We measured pupal viability and adult mating success among the progeny of the 5 lines with the largest combs (high line category) and the 5 lines with the smallest combs (low line category). The high line category produced offspring that were significantly more viable than the low line category, and this advantage held across 2 developmental temperatures. In contrast, there was no effect of line category on male mating success, although at the individual-level, comb size was significantly positively correlated with mating success. Our results indicate that the relative size of the D. bipectinata sex comb taps genotypic properties that enhance offspring fitness in a trait-specific manner. Thus, distinct proximate mechanisms likely underlie relationships between secondary sexual trait expression and different performance traits in offspring, offering a possible explanation for inconsistent support for the existence of indirect benefits in sexual selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-451
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • good genes sexual selection
  • indicator models
  • mating success
  • offspring viability
  • sex combs


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