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Data from: The evolution of male-biased sexual size dimorphism is associated with increased body size plasticity in males

Cite this dataset

Rohner, Patrick T. et al. (2018). Data from: The evolution of male-biased sexual size dimorphism is associated with increased body size plasticity in males [Dataset]. Dryad.


1.Sexual size dimorphism (SSD) can vary drastically across environments, demonstrating pronounced sex-specific plasticity. In insects, females are usually the larger and more plastic sex. However, the shortage of taxa with male-biased SSD hampers the assessment of whether the greater plasticity in females is driven by selection on size or represents an effect of the female reproductive role. Here we specifically address the role of sex-specific plasticity of body size in the evolution of SSD reversals to disentangle sex and size effects. 2.We first investigate sex-specific body size plasticity in Sepsis punctum and S. neocynipsea as two independent cases of intraspecific SSD reversals in sepsid flies. In both species, directional variation in SSD between populations is driven by stronger sexual selection on male size. Using controlled laboratory breeding, we find evidence for sex-specific plasticity and increased condition dependence of male size in populations with male-biased SSD, but not of female size in populations with female-biased SSD, indicating no adaptive canalization of female size. 3.To extend the comparative scope, we next estimate sex-specific body size plasticity in eight additional fly species that differ in the direction of SSD under laboratory conditions. In all species with male-biased SSD we find males to be the more plastic sex, while this was only rarely the case in species with female-biased SSD, thus suggesting a more general trend in Diptera. 4.To examine the generality of this pattern in holometabolous insects, we combine our data with data from the literature in a meta-analysis. Again, male body size tends to be more plastic than female size when males are the larger sex, though female size is now also generally more plastic when females are larger. 5.Our findings indicate that primarily selection on size, rather than the reproductive role per se, drives the evolution of sex-specific body size plasticity. However, sepsid flies, and possibly Diptera in general, show a clear sexual asymmetry with greater male than female plasticity related to SSD, likely driven by strong sexual selection on males. Although further research controlling for phylogenetic and ecological confounding effects is needed, our findings are congruent with theory in suggesting that condition dependence plays a pivotal role in the evolution of sexual size dimorphism.

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