Stabilizing sexual selection for female ornaments in a dance fly

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Ornamental traits function by improving attractiveness and are generally presumed to experience directional selection for mating success. However, given the greater investment of females in offspring than males, female-specific ornaments can in theory signal fecundity yet be constrained by fecundity costs. Theoretical work predicts that such constraints can lead to stabilizing selection via male choice for intermediately ornamented females. Female dance flies Rhamphomyia longicauda (Diptera: Empididae) display two female-specific ornaments in mating swarms – inflatable abdominal sacs and pinnate tibial scales. We investigated the intensity and form of sexual selection on female traits including ornaments and found no evidence for directional sexual selection. Instead, we found marginally nonsignificant quadratic selection for all three measures of ornament expression. Canonical analysis confirmed that the strongest vectors of nonlinear selection were associated with ornamental traits, although the significance of the quadratic coefficients associated with these vectors depended on the statistical approach. Direct Mitchell-Olds and Shaw tests for the location of the maximum fitted fitness value for both raw morphological traits and canonical axes revealed only one marginally nonsignificant result for the multivariate axis loading most heavily on pinnate leg scales. Together, these results provide the first tentative support for stabilizing selection on female-specific ornaments.

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