Section 56
Chapter 55,750

Sexual selection explains sex-specific growth plasticity and positive allometry for sexual size dimorphism in a reef fish

Walker, S.P.W.; McCormick, M.I.

Proceedings. Biological Sciences 276(1671): 3335-3343


ISSN/ISBN: 0962-8452
PMID: 19553253
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0767
Accession: 055749525

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In 1950, Rensch noted that in clades where males are the larger sex, sexual size dimorphism (SSD) tends to be more pronounced in larger species. This fundamental allometric relationship is now known as 'Rensch's rule'. While most researchers attribute Rensch's rule to sexual selection for male size, experimental evidence is lacking. Here, we suggest that ultimate hypotheses for Rensch's rule should also apply to groups of individuals and that individual trait plasticity can be used to test those hypotheses experimentally. Specifically, we show that in the sex-changing fish Parapercis cylindrica, larger males have larger harems with larger females, and that SSD increases with harem size. Thus, sexual selection for male body size is the ultimate cause of sexual size allometry. In addition, we experimentally illustrate a positive relationship between polygyny potential and individual growth rate during sex change from female to male. Thus, sexual selection is the ultimate cause of variation in growth rate, and variation in growth rate is the proximate cause of sexual size allometry. Taken together, our results provide compelling evidence in support of the sexual selection hypothesis for Rensch's rule and highlight the potential importance of individual growth modification in the shaping of morphological patterns in Nature.

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