Sexual Selection on Population-level Mating Opportunities Drives Morph Ratios in a Fig Wasp with Extreme Male Dimorphism
Background Alternative mating tactics are widespread in animals and associated with extreme morphological polymorphism in some insects. Some fig wasps have both highly modified wingless males and dispersing winged males. Wingless males mate inside figs before females disperse, while winged males mate elsewhere after dispersal. Hamilton proposed a model for this system with morphs determined by alternative alleles. This has an equilibrium where the proportion of winged males equals the
... quals the proportion of females dispersing unmated; i.e. the proportion of matings they obtain. Previously, we have shown qualitative support for this prediction across nine fig wasp species. Here I test the quantitative prediction in a population of the fig wasp Pseudidarnes minerva. In addition, while Hamilton envisaged simple Mendelian strategies, some fig wasp species with two wingless male morphs (but no winged males) show a conditional strategy with morph determination influenced by the number of wasps developing in a patch - I also test for this pattern in P. minerva. Results I sampled 114 figs that contained a mean of 2.1 P. minerva wasps from 44 trees across four sites in Sydney, Australia. At the whole population level, the proportion of winged males (0.84 or 0.79 corrected for sampling bias) did not differ significantly from the proportion of unmated females (0.84), providing strong quantitative support for the prediction of Hamilton's model. In addition, there was no evidence for other factors, such as local mate competition or fighting between wingless males, that could violate simplifying assumptions of the model. Meanwhile, the proportion of winged males was not correlated with the number of wasps per fig, providing no evidence for a conditional strategy. Conclusions Morph ratios in P. minerva are consistent with Hamilton's simple Mendelian strategy model, where morph ratios are set by average mating opportunities at the population level. This contrasts with some fig wasps from another subfamily that show conditional morph determination, allowing finer scale adaptation to fig-level mating opportunities. However, these conditional cases do not involve wing polymorphism. Male polymorphism is common and variable in fig wasps and has evolved independently in multiple lineages with apparently different underlying mechanisms.