• allometry;
  • genetic assimilation;
  • genetic correlation;
  • genital evolution;
  • heritability;
  • sexual selection

Male genitalia show several evolutionary characteristics, including rapid morphological divergence between closely related species and low within-species phenotypic variability. In addition, genital asymmetry is widespread despite the essentially bilaterally symmetric external morphology of insects. Several hypotheses, such as sexual selection and lock-and-key hypotheses, have been proposed to explain these characteristics of genital evolution. Although these hypotheses provide different predictions about the genetic basis of variation in genitalia, detailed quantitative genetic studies have been conducted in only three insect taxa: heteropterans, dung beetles (Scarabaeidae), and drosophilid flies. For an anisolabidid earwig, Euborellia plebeja, characterized by paired elongated intromittent organs, we estimated the heritabilities and genetic correlations of genital laterality, size of genitalia, and body size. No statistically significant additive genetic, dominance, maternal, or common environmental effects were detected for genital laterality (readiness to use either the left or the right intromittent organ). This result lends further support to the general rule that the direction of antisymmetric variations is randomly determined by non-genetic factors. Irrespective of the restricted phenotypic variation in genitalia compared with body size (allometric slope < 1), as observed in previous studies for other insects, these two traits showed a similar level of genetic variation, measured as the narrow sense heritability (h2) and the coefficient of additive genetic variation (CVA). Comparison suggests the causes of interspecific differences in genetic variability/correlation structures were developmental processes (holo- or hemimetabolous) and/or mode of sexual selection. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 101, 103–112.