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Sexual size dimorphism is associated with reproductive life history trait differentiation in coexisting sepsid flies

Cite this dataset

Blanckenhorn, Wolf et al. (2020). Sexual size dimorphism is associated with reproductive life history trait differentiation in coexisting sepsid flies [Dataset]. Dryad.


Organismal life histories evolve as syndromes, resulting in correlated evolutionary differentiation of key traits that ultimately aid in discerning species. Reproductive success depends both on the absolute body size of an individual and its size relative to the opposite sex: sexual size dimorphism. In an attempt to further elucidate their coexistence and ecological diversification, we compared standard life history (first reproduction, clutch size, egg size) and associated reproductive trait differentiation of 15 widespread European sepsid fly species (Diptera: Sepsidae) under laboratory common garden conditions. Despite relatively uniform body sizes, sexual dimorphism ranged from female- to male-biased, and development time varied twofold across species. We expected, and found, the abundant and relatively large species (Sepsis cynipsea, punctum, thoracica) with often male-biased SSD to lay larger but fewer eggs and show fast-developing, fast-reproducing life histories with aggressive (coercive) mating behavior characterized by short mating latencies and male conflict. In contrast, the smaller and more dispersed species with female-biased SSD (S. flavimana, orthocnemis, violacea) laid smaller but more eggs, showing a generally slower life history with long and delayed copulation and oviposition, high mating reluctance fostering extensive inter-sexual conflict, and more elaborate male (pre-)copulatory courtship. Two Saltella species were exceptional, being large, developing slowly, nevertheless copulating soon after adult emergence, profusely and briefly. The documented life history differentiation seems partly driven by sexual selection leading to male-biased dimorphism, rather than undetermined ecological selection, which regardless appears insufficient to explain the coexistence and diversification of these sepsid species in European pastoral landscapes.


Methods used to collect these data are described in the Methods section of the corresponding publication.

Usage notes

Missing values are designated with "NA". In these cases, the focal individual either died, did not lay eggs, or could not be measured because it escaped or because the eggs hatched before pictures could be taken.


Swiss National Science Foundation, Award: 31003A_143787