Male differentiation patterns in two polyphenic sister species of the genus Onthophagus Latreille, 1802 (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae): a geometric morphometric approach

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2006
Authors:A. Pizzo, Mercurio, D., Palestrini, C., Roggero, A., Rolando, A.
Keywords:allometry, developmental investment, differentiation between species and morphs, external morphology, male genitalia, Sperm competition,

This paper focuses on morphological (both shape and size) differences that quite similar polyphenic sister species evolve during divergence processes. Traits were analysed using a geometrical morphometric approach, which has the ability to evidence also very subtle differences in shape. As a case study, we considered males of the dung beetle sister species pair Onthophagus taurus and Onthophagus illyricus (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae); these species represent a typical example of polyphenic trait expression concerning the facultative development of horns and considerable body size differences. External shape morphology failed to discriminate O. taurus from O. illyricus, whereas the reproductive system shape showed significant interspecific discrimination power. However, the head of O. taurus was significantly larger than that of O. illyricus and the reverse was true for the elytra. The two species also showed different allometric values of the head with respect to body size. This complex pattern of interspecific morphological divergence is discussed in the light of the differential trait divergence rate hypothesis. In both species, differences between major and minor forms concern the overall shape of head and pronotum: we suggest that such different forms, which likely reflect morphological readjustment to accommodate horns of considerable bulk and disproportionate length, may be nevertheless advantageously used by the two male morphs in their alternative reproductive tactics. Male genitalia sizes were virtually constant with respect to body size; however, the ratio between phallotheca and body size was significantly higher in minor males, in keeping with the hypothesis of a higher investment in genitalia borne by this morph.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith