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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Mar 7;272(1562):543-51.

Phenotypic plasticity in the developmental integration of morphological trade-offs and secondary sexual trait compensation.

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Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of St Andrews, Sir Harold Mitchell Building, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TH, UK.


Trait exaggeration through sexual selection will tale place alongside other changes in phenotype. Exaggerated morphology might be compensated by parallel changes in traits that support, enhance or facilitate exaggeration: 'secondary sexual trait compensation' (SSTC). Alternatively, exaggeration might be realized at the expense of other traits through morphological trade-offs. For the most part, SSTC has only been examined interspecifically. For these phenomena to be important intraspecifically, the sexual trait must be developmentally integrated with the compensatory or competing trait. We studied developmental integration in two species with different development: the holometabolous beetle Onthophagus taurus and the hemimetabolous earwig Forficula auricularia. Male-dimorphic variation in trait exaggeration was exploited to expose both trade-offs and SSTC. We found evidence for morphological trade-offs in O. taurus, but no F. auricularia, supporting the notion that trade-offs are more likely in closed developmetal systems. However, we found these trade-offs were not limited solely to traits growing close together. Developmental integration of structures involved in SSTC were detected in both species. The developmental integration of SSTC was phenotypically plastic, such that the compensation for relatively larger sexual traits was greater in the exasperated male morphs. Evidence of intraspecific SSTC demands studies of the selective, genetic and developmental architecture of phenotypic integration.

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