Meiotic drive does not cause condition-dependent reduction of the sexual ornament in stalk-eyed flies

S. R. Finnegan, M. Mondani, K. Fowler and A. Pomiankowski,  Journal of Evolutionary Biology,  11. 2021.

Meiotic drive systems are associated with low-frequency chromosomal inversions. These are expected to accumulate deleterious mutations due to reduced recombination and low effective population size. We test this prediction using the ‘sex-ratio’ (SR) meiotic drive system of the Malaysian stalk-eyed fly Teleopsis dalmanni. SR is associated with a large inversion (or inversions) on the X chromosome. In particular, we study eyespan in males carrying the SR chromosome, as this trait is a highly exaggerated, sexually dimorphic trait, known to have heightened condition-dependent expression. Larvae were raised in low and high larval food stress environments. SR males showed reduced eyespan under the low and high stress treatments, but there was no evidence of a condition-dependent decrease in eyespan under high stress. Similar but more complex patterns were observed for female eyespan, with evidence of additivity under low stress and heterosis under high stress. These results do not support the hypothesis that reduced sexual ornament size in meiotic drive males is due to a condition-dependent response to the putative increase in mutation load. Instead, reduced eyespan likely reflects compensatory resource allocation to different traits in response to drive-mediated destruction of sperm.

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