Do the elongated eye stalks of Diopsid flies facilitate rival assessment?

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The elongated eye span of male Diopsid flies is a sexually selected character that scales positively with body size. Previously, the duration of agonistic contests was found to increase as rival body size and eye span disparities decreased. Hence, along with its role in mate choice, eye span seems to facilitate mutual assessment of rival size. However, such results are also expected in the absence of rival assessment, when each individual persists according to its own size-dependent internal threshold. Here, we reanalyze these contests to distinguish between these two hypotheses using two measures of size: body length and eye span. Mutual assessment predicts that contest duration should increase with loser size and decrease with winner size. In contrast, our results were more consistent with self-assessment: We found a positive relationship between loser size and contest duration, whereas winner size did not affect contest duration. Thus, flies did not appear to assess the size of their rivals, indicating that the mutual assessment function of eye span elongation may be less important than previously suspected.

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