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J Evol Biol. 2007 Jul;20(4):1322-32.

No evidence for condition-dependent expression of male genitalia in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus.

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Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Animal Biology (M092), University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA, Australia.


We examine the condition-dependence of male genitalia in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus by manipulating the quality of dung provided for larval growth and development. We show that the influence of larval nutrition differed considerably across three different trait classes (sexual, nonsexual and genital). The size of all nonsexual traits varied with dung quality but their allometric slopes remained unchanged. Relative horn length and allometry, but not absolute horn length, showed a high degree of plasticity with differences in dung quality. In contrast, both absolute size and allometry of genitalia were largely unresponsive to changes in dung quality. Male genitalia exhibited intermediate levels of phenotypic variation and lower allometric slopes than both horns and nonsexual traits. Thus, our findings provide little support for good genes hypotheses of genital evolution. We use our findings to discuss a developmental mechanism and selection pressures that may prevent the condition-dependent expression of genitalia.

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