Sexually antagonistic coevolution may be an important force in the evolution of sexual dimorphism. We undertake a comparative study of correlated evolution of male and female morphologies in a clade of 15 water strider species in the genus Gerris (Heteroptera: Gerridae). Earlier studies have shown that superfluous matings impose costs on females, including increased energetic expenditure and predation risk, and females therefore resist males with premating struggles. Males of some species possess grasping structures and females of some species exhibit distinct antigrasping structures, which are used to further the interests of each sex during these premating struggles. We use this understanding, combined with coevolutionary theory, to derive a series of a priori predictions concerning both the types of traits in the two sexes that are expected to coevolve and the coevolutionary dynamics of these traits expected under sexually antagonistic coevolution. We then assess the actual pattern of correlated evolution in this clade with new morphometric methods combined with standard comparative techniques. The results were in agreement with the a priori predictions. The level of armament (different abdominal structures in the two sexes) was closely correlated between the sexes across species. Males are well adapted to grasping females in species in which females are well adapted to thwart harassing males and vice versa. Furthermore, our comparative analyses supports the prediction that correlated evolution of armament in the two sexes should be both rapid and bidirectional.
Corresponding Editor: S. Pitnick