Experimental evidence for the evolution of the mammalian baculum by sexual selection

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    Abstract

    Male genitalia exhibit a taxonomically widespread pattern of rapid and divergent evolution. Sexual selection is generally believed to be responsible for these patterns of evolutionary divergence, although empirical support for the sexual selection hypothesis comes mainly from studies of insects. Here we show that sexual selection is responsible for an evolutionary divergence in baculum morphology among populations of house mice Mus domesticus. We sourced mice from three isolated populations known to be subject to differing strengths of postcopulatory sexual selection and bred them under common-garden conditions. Mice from populations with strong postcopulatory sexual selection had bacula that were relatively thicker compared with mice from populations with weak selection. We used experimental evolution to determine whether these patterns of divergence could be ascribed to postcopulatory sexual selection. After 27 generations of experimental evolution, populations of mice subjected to postcopulatory sexual selection evolved bacula that were relatively thicker than populations subjected to enforced monogamy. Our data thereby provide evidence that postcopulatory sexual selection underlies an evolutionary divergence in the mammalian baculum and supports the hypothesis that sexual selection plays a general role in the evolution of male genital morphology across evolutionary diverse taxonomic groups. © 2013 The Society for the Study of Evolution.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)276-283
    Number of pages8
    JournalEvolution
    Volume68
    Issue number1
    Early online date29 Aug 2013
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2013

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