Eye stalks and their scaling relationship with body size are important features in the mating system of many diopsid species, and sexual selection is a critical force influencing the evolution of this exaggerated morphology. Interspecific variation in eye span suggests there has been significant evolutionary change in this trait, but a robust phylogenetic hypothesis is required to determine its rate and direction of change. In this study, the pattern of morphological evolution of eye span is assessed in a phylogenetic framework with respect to its function in the sexual system of these flies. Specifically, we examine within the family Diopsidae the pattern of increase and decrease in sexual dimorphism, the morphological coevolution of eye span between males and females, and the evolutionary flexibility of eye-span allometry. Based on several different methods for reconstructing morphological change, results suggest a general pattern of evolutionary flexibility, particularly for eye-span allometry. Sexual dimorphism in eye span has evolved independently at least four times in the family and this trait also has undergone several reductions within the genus Diasemopsis. Despite most species being dimorphic, there is a strong phylogenetic correlation between males and females for mean eye span. The coevolution between the sexes for eye-span allometry, however, is significantly weaker. Overall, eye-span allometry exhibits significantly more change on the phylogeny than the other morphological traits. The evolutionary pattern in eye-span allometry is caused primarily by changes in eye-span variance. Therefore, this pattern is consistent with recent models that predict a strong relationship between sexual selection and the variance of ornamental traits and highlights the significance of eye-span allometry in intersexual and intrasexual signaling.
Corresponding Editor: K. Ross