Baculum shape and paternity success in house mice: evidence for genital coevolution

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Sexual selection is believed to be responsible for the rapid divergence of male genitalia, which is a widely observed phenomenon across different taxa. Among mammals, the stimulatory role of male genitalia and female 'sensory perception' has been suggested to explain these evolutionary patterns. Recent research on house mice has shown that baculum (penis bone) shape can respond to experimentally imposed sexual selection. Here, we explore the adaptive value of baculum shape by performing two experiments that examine the effects of male and female genitalia on male reproductive success. Thus, we selected house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) from families characterized by extremes in baculum shape (relative width) and examined paternity success in both non-competitive (monogamous) and competitive (polyandrous) contexts. Our analyses revealed that the relative baculum shape of competing males influenced competitive paternity success, but that this effect was dependent on the breeding value for baculum shape of the family from which females were derived. Our data provide novel insight into the potential mechanisms underlying the evolution of the house mouse baculum and lend support to the stimulatory hypothesis for the coevolution of male and female genitalia. This article is part of the theme issue 'Fifty years of sperm competition'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200150
Number of pages1
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
Issue number1813
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


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