Exaggerated trait allometry, compensation and trade-offs in the New Zealand giraffe weevil (Lasiorhynchus barbicornis)

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Sexual selection has driven the evolution of exaggerated traits among diverse animal taxa. The production of exaggerated traits can come at a cost to other traits through trade-offs when resources allocated to trait development are limited. Alternatively some traits can be selected for in parallel to support or compensate for the cost of bearing the exaggerated trait. Male giraffe weevils (Lasiorhynchus barbicornis) display an extremely elongated rostrum used as a weapon during contests for mates. Here we characterise the scaling relationship between rostrum and body size and show that males have a steep positive allometry, but that the slope is non-linear due to a relative reduction in rostrum length for the largest males, suggesting a limitation in resource allocation or a diminishing requirement for large males to invest increasingly into larger rostra. We also measured testes, wings, antennae, fore- and hind-tibia size and found no evidence of a trade-off between these traits and rostrum length when comparing phenotypic correlations. However, the relative length of wings, antennae, fore- and hind-tibia all increased with relative rostrum length suggesting these traits may be under correlational selection. Increased investment in wing and leg length is therefore likely to compensate for the costs of flying with, and wielding the exaggerated rostrum of larger male giraffe weevils. These results provide a first step in identifying the potential for trait compensation and trades-offs, but are phenotypic correlations only and should be interpreted with care in the absence of breeding experiments.




Painting, C. J., & Holwell, G. I. (2013). Exaggerated trait allometry, compensation and trade-offs in the New Zealand giraffe weevil (Lasiorhynchus barbicornis). PLoS ONE, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0082467

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