Rapid evolution of ecological sexual dimorphism driven by resource competition

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Sex differences in ecologically important traits are common in animals and plants, and prompted Darwin to first propose an ecological cause of sexual dimorphism. Despite theoretical plausibility and Darwin's original notion, a role for ecological resource competition in the evolution of sexual dimorphism has never been directly demonstrated and remains controversial. I used experimental evolution in Drosophila melanogaster to test the hypothesis that resource competition can drive the evolution of sex differences in diet. Following just three generations of adaptation, offspring from flies evolved in low-resource, high-competition environments show elevated sexual dimorphism in diet preference compared to both the ancestor and populations evolved on high-resource availability. This increased sexual dimorphism was the result of divergence in male sucrose intake and female yeast intake consistent with the differential nutritional requirements of the sexes. These results provide the first real-time direct evidence for evolution of sexual dimorphism driven by resource competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-131
Number of pages8
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology

Free keywords

  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • ecological character displacement
  • experimental evolution
  • nutritional geometry
  • resource competition
  • sex-specific selection


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