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Bat genitalia: allometry, variation and good genes


Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter in Cornwall, Tremough, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9EZ, UK. E-mail:


Male genitalia are typically highly variable across species, for which sexual selection is thought to be responsible. Sexually selected traits characteristically show positive allometry and high phenotypic variation, although genitalia seem to be typified by negative allometry due to stabilizing selection. Additionally, while sexual selection appears to be the primary force responsible for genital evolution, the precise mechanism is unclear, but good-genes selection could be involved. If so, male genital variation should correlate with some male quality measure(s). We investigated the allometry of male Nyctalus noctula genitalia and investigated associations between genital size and three phenotypic measures of male quality (body size, relative body mass, and fluctuating asymmetry (FA)). We found that the penis exhibited positive allometry and high phenotypic variation, and was positively associated with male body size and relative body mass, but not with FA. This pattern is more typical of sexually selected display traits, contrasting with general patterns of genital allometry. The baculum was negatively allometric and was not associated with any quality measure. Our results suggest that the N. noctula penis is under directional sexual selection and is a reliable indicator of male phenotypic quality. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 83, 497–507.