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

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Trait exaggeration through sexual selection will take 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 not F. auricularia, supporting the notion that trade-offs are more likely in closed developmental 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 exaggerated male morphs. Evidence of intraspecific SSTC demands studies of the selective, genetic and developmental architecture of phenotypic integration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-551
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1562
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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