Why the Static Allometry of Sexually-Selected Traits Is So Variable: The Importance of Function

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Sexually-selected traits often show positive static allometry, with large individuals bearing disproportionately large structures. But many other sexually-selected traits show isometry or even negative allometry, with trait size varying relatively little with body size. We recently proposed that the functions of these traits (as aggressive signals, weapons, courtship signals, and contact courtship devices) determine their allometries. Positive allometry is generally favored for aggressive signals because aggressive signals are selected to emphasize body size (and thus fighting prowess). In contrast, the biomechanics of force application in weapons only sometimes select for positive allometry; the content of courtship signals is even less often related to body size; and contact courtship devices are selected to be relatively invariant across body sizes. Here we summarize the arguments in favor of this "functional allometry" hypothesis and expand a comparative test of its predictions. Our results indicate that sexual traits have the allometric slopes predicted by our hypothesis, regardless of which body part bears the structure.

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Integrative and comparative biology

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