Sexual selection has been identified as a major evolutionary force shaping male life history traits but its impact on female life history evolution is less clear. Here we examine the impact of sexual selection on three key female traits (body size, egg size and clutch size) in Galliform birds. Using comparative independent contrast analyses and directional discrete analyses, based on published data and a new genera-level supertree phylogeny of Galliform birds, we investigated how sexual selection [quantified as sexual size dimorphism (SSD) and social mating system (MS)] affects these three important female traits. We found that female body mass was strongly and positively correlated with egg size but not with clutch size, and that clutch size decreased as egg size increased. We established that SSD was related to MS, and then used SSD as a proxy of the strength of sexual selection. We found both a positive relationship between SSD and female body mass and egg size and that increases in female body mass and egg size tend to occur following increases in SSD in this bird order. This pattern of female body mass increases lagging behind changes in SSD, established using our directional discrete analysis, suggests that female body mass increases as a response to increases in the level of sexual selection and not simply through a strong genetic relationship with male body mass. This suggests that sexual selection is linked to changes in female life history traits in Galliformes and we discuss how this link may shape patterns of life history variation among species.
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