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A mechanism of extreme growth and reliable signaling in sexually selected ornaments and weapons.

Authors
  • Emlen, Douglas J
  • Warren, Ian A
  • Johns, Annika
  • Dworkin, Ian
  • Lavine, Laura Corley
Type
Published Article
Journal
Science
Publisher
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Publication Date
Aug 17, 2012
Volume
337
Issue
6096
Pages
860–864
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1126/science.1224286
PMID: 22837386
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Many male animals wield ornaments or weapons of exaggerated proportions. We propose that increased cellular sensitivity to signaling through the insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) pathway may be responsible for the extreme growth of these structures. We document how rhinoceros beetle horns, a sexually selected weapon, are more sensitive to nutrition and more responsive to perturbation of the insulin/IGF pathway than other body structures. We then illustrate how enhanced sensitivity to insulin/IGF signaling in a growing ornament or weapon would cause heightened condition sensitivity and increased variability in expression among individuals--critical properties of reliable signals of male quality. The possibility that reliable signaling arises as a by-product of the growth mechanism may explain why trait exaggeration has evolved so many different times in the context of sexual selection.

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