Stabilizing selection and variance in fig wasp sex ratios
West SA., Herre EA.
Theory predicts that the phenotypic variance observed in a trait subject to stabilizing selection should be negatively correlated with the trait's impact on fitness. However, this relationship has rarely been tested directly. The offspring sex ratios produced by pollinating fig wasp foundresses upon entrance to a fruit and oviposition alone (single foundless sex ratios) are subject to stabilizing selection because too many males reduce the total number of dispersing females and too few males will result in unmated females or complete loss of the brood. Furthermore, we argue that the impact on fitness of, and therefore the intensity of stabilizing intensity on, single foundress sex ratios are correlated to how frequently a species produces single foundress broods in nature. Specifically, the intensity of stabilizing selection will be greater in species that encounter single foundress broods more frequently, both because the trait is expressed more often and because fitness shows a greater sensitivity to variation (narrower fitness profile) when that trait is expressed. Across 16 species of Panamanian pollinating fig wasps, the phenotypic variance in single foundress sex ratios was negatively correlated with the frequency with which that species encounters single foundress broods in nature. In addition, a formal comparative analysis based upon a molecular phylogeny of the wasps gave results that were the same as when species were used as independent data points.