The net effect of sexual selection on nonsexual fitness is controversial. On one side, elaborate display traits and preferences for them can be costly, reducing the nonsexual fitness of individuals possessing them, as well as their offspring. In contrast, sexual selection may reinforce nonsexual fitness if an individual's attractiveness and quality are genetically correlated. According to recent models, such good-genes mate choice should increase both the extent and rate of adaptation. We evolved 12 replicate populations of Drosophila serrata in a powerful two-way factorial experimental design to test the separate and combined contributions of natural and sexual selection to adaptation to a novel larval food resource. Populations evolving in the presence of natural selection had significantly higher mean nonsexual fitness when measured over three generations (13–15) during the course of experimental evolution (16– 23% increase). The effect of natural selection was even more substantial when measured in a standardized, monogamous mating environment at the end of the experiment (generation 16; 52% increase). In contrast, and despite strong sexual selection on display traits, there was no evidence from any of the four replicate fitness measures that sexual selection promoted adaptation. In addition, a comparison of fitness measures conducted under different mating environments demonstrated a significant direct cost of sexual selection to females, likely arising from some form of male-induced harm. Indirect benefits of sexual selection in promoting adaptation to this novel resource environment therefore appear to be absent in this species, despite prior evidence suggesting the operation of good-genes mate choice in their ancestral environment. How novel environments affect the operation of good-genes mate choice is a fundamental question for future sexual selection research.
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Vol. 60 • No. 11