Most animal species exhibit sexual size dimorphism (SSD). SSD is a trait difficult to quantify for genetical purposes since it must be simultaneously measured on two kinds of individuals, and it is generally expressed either as a difference or as a ratio between sexes. Here we ask two related questions: What is the best way to describe SSD, and is it possible to conveniently demonstrate its genetic variability in a natural population? We show that a simple experimental design, the isofemale-line technique (full-sib families), may provide an estimate of genetic variability, using the coefficient of intraclass correlation. We consider two SSD indices, the female-male difference and the female/male ratio. For two size-related traits, wing and thorax length, we found that both SSD indices were normally distributed. Within each family, the variability of SSD was estimated by considering individual values in one sex (the female) with respect to the mean value in the other sex (the male). In a homogeneous sample of 30 lines ofDrosophila melanogaster, both indices provided similar intraclass correlations, on average 0.21, significantly greater than zero but lower than those for the traits themselves: 0.50 and 0.36 for wing and thorax length respectively. Wing and thorax length were strongly positively correlated within each sex. SSD indices of wing and thorax length were also positively correlated, but to a lesser degree than for the traits themselves. For comparative evolutionary studies, the ratio between sexes seems a better index of SSD since it avoids scaling effects among populations or species, permits comparisons between different traits, and has an unambiguous biological significance. In the case ofD. melanogaster grown at 25‡C, the average female/male ratios are very similar for the wing (1.16) and the thorax (1.15), and indicate that, on average, these size traits are 15–16% longer in females.
Continuous Article Publishing mode
Click here for Editorial Note on CAP Mode