Stalk-Eyed Fly Research Group, UCL





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Research (Brief Overview)

(for more detail and references use the following links sexual selection, development)

We use stalk-eyed flies to study how the forces of sexual selection, (female preference and male-male competition) interact to drive the evolution of exaggerated sexual ornaments. Stalk-eyed flies have their eyes located on the ends of elongated lateral stalks. Many species are dimorphic for eyespan where the larger male trait functions as an ornament. These dimorphic species show lekking behaviour, forming mating aggregations at dusk. Females typically prefer to roost and mate with males with the largest eyespans, and male eyespan also acts as an intra-sexual signal in the resolution of contests between males over access to females

A pair of Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni individuals mating.

Stalk-eyed flies therefore provide an ideal model system to study sexual selection, and much of our research has focused on investigating “good genes” and direct benefit models of sexual selection. We use both phenotypic and genetic approaches, combining experimental manipulation, artificial selection, molecular analyses and fieldwork.

We have also been using a variety of techniques to elucidate the genes involved in the development of the eye-stalks. We plan to use this information to work out the molecular pathways and mechanisms involved in the evolution of these exaggerated sexual ornaments.


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All photographs by Sam Cotton