Meiotic drive adaptive testes enlargement during early development in the stalk-eyed fly

S. L. Bradshaw, L. Meade, J. Tarlton-Weatherall and A. Pomiankowski,  Biology Letters,  18:20220352. 2022.

The sex ratio (SR) X-linked meiotic drive system in stalk-eyed flies destroys Y-bearing sperm. Unlike other SR systems, drive males do not suffer fertility loss. They have greatly enlarged testes which compensate for gamete killing. We predicted that enlarged testes arise from extended development with resources re-allocated from the accessory glands, as these tend to be smaller in drive males. To test this, we tracked the growth of the testes and accessory glands of wild-type and drive males over 5-6 weeks post-eclosion before males attained sexual maturity. Neither of the original predictions is supported by these data. Instead, we found that the drive male testes were enlarged at eclosion, reflecting a greater allocation of resources to the testes during pupation. Testes grow at a higher rate during early adult development in drive males, but there was no evidence that this retards the growth of the accessory glands. Further experiments are proposed to investigate whether smaller accessory glands only arise in drive males post-copulation or when flies are subjected to nutritional stress. Our experimental findings support the idea that enlarged testes in drive males arise as an adaptive allocation of resources to traits that enhance male reproductive success.

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