Phenotypic plasticity in genitalia: baculum shape responds to sperm competition risk in house mice

Gonçalo I. André, Renée C. Firman, Leigh W. Simmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Males are known to adjust their expenditure on testes growth and sperm production in response to sperm competition risk. Genital morphology can also contribute to competitive fertilization success but whether male genital morphology can respond plastically to the sperm competition environment has received little attention. Here, we exposed male house mice to two different sperm competition environments during their sexual development and quantified phenotypic plasticity in baculum morphology. The sperm competition environment generated plasticity in body growth. Males maturing under sperm competition risk were larger and heavier than males maturing under no sperm competition risk. We used a landmark-based geometric morphometric approach to measure baculum size and shape. Independent of variation in body size, males maintained under risk of sperm competition had a relatively thicker and more distally extended baculum bulb compared with males maintained under no sperm competition risk. Plasticity in baculum shape paralleled evolutionary responses to selection from sperm competition reported in previous studies of house mice. Our findings provide experimental evidence of socially mediated phenotypic plasticity in male genitalia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20181086
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1882
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2018


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