Citation Hunter FDL & Bussière LF (2019) Comparative evidence supports a role for reproductive allocation in the evolution of female ornament diversity. Ecological Entomology, 44 (3), pp. 324-332. https://doi.org/10.1111/een.12707
Abstract 1. Sexually selected ornaments are highly variable, even among closely related species, and the ultimate causes of variation in ornament evolution are unclear, including in rare cases of female ornament expression. One hypothesis is that differences across species in female reproductive allocation may help to explain patterns of female ornament expression among insects with nuptial gifts.
2. Dance flies (Diptera: Empididae: Empidinae) vary considerably among species in the presence and extravagance of female ornaments, which probably evolved through female contests for mates. In most dance flies, adult females appear to acquire all their dietary protein from nuptial gifts provided by males during mating. The importance of nuptial feeding on egg development is not yet known.
3. To test the prediction that the presence of female ornaments reflects differences in the degree to which females rely on nuptial feeding for egg development, egg development was examined in wild females of two species, one ornamented and the other unornamented. An ageing technique based on cuticular bands was validated, which permitted a regression of egg size on adult age.
4. We found that egg development depended on mating status in the ornamented species alone, meaning the eggs of unmated females of the ornamented species did not develop. This contrast across species is consistent with expectations that females of different species vary in their dependence on nuptial gifts for egg development.
5. These findings provide preliminary support for the hypothesis that differences in reproductive allocation mediate the intensity of female contests for nuptial gifts.