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Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Feb;19(2):87-93.

Sexual selection and genital evolution.

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  • 1Zoologisches Museum, University of Zurich-Irchel, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland. hosken@zoolmus.unizh.ch


Genitalia are conspicuously variable, even in closely related taxa that are otherwise morphologically very similar. Explaining genital diversity is a longstanding problem that is attracting renewed interest from evolutionary biologists. New studies provide ever more compelling evidence that sexual selection is important in driving genital divergence. Importantly, several studies now link variation in genital morphology directly to male fertilization success, and modern comparative techniques have confirmed predicted associations between genital complexity and mating patterns across species. There is also evidence that male and female genitalia can coevolve antagonistically. Determining mechanisms of genital evolution is an important challenge if we are to resolve current debate concerning the relative significance of mate choice benefits and sexual conflict in sexual selection.

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