Sexual dimorphism and physiological correlates of horn length in a South African isopod crustacean
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Although isopod crustaceans frequently show sexual dimorphism in body size, sexual differences in other non-reproductive (secondary sexual) traits have been rarely studied. Furthermore, little is known about the physiological correlates of variation in the expression of sexually dimorphic traits in animals generally. Here, we show that the unusual dorsal horns of the South African horned isopod Deto echinata exhibit significantly different allometric scaling relationships with body size in males versus females. Not only are the horns of adult males substantially longer than those of adult females but also their log–log scaling slope with body length is significantly steeper than that of females and juveniles. Furthermore, in males relative horn length is positively correlated with body condition, as estimated by body mass relative to body length, and with resting metabolic (CO2 release) rate, also adjusted to body length. However, although showing a weak positive trend, the relative horn length of males is not significantly correlated with body length adjusted active metabolic rate. It is also not significantly correlated with the relative rates of whole body or cuticular water loss rates or with two measures of activity level. We hypothesize that the sexual dimorphism of horn length in D. echinata is the result of sexual selection and that horn length is a reliable indicator of the ability of a male to acquire and process resources, which in turn may be critical to female mate choice and (or) male–male competition for mates. However, this hypothesis requires further testing based on direct observations of female mate choice and male–male behavioral interactions, which have not yet been carried out.