Allometry of the baculum and sexual size dimorphism in American martens and fishers (Mammalia: Mustelidae)




Genitalia are among the most variable of morphological traits, and recent research suggests that this variability may be the result of sexual selection. For example, large bacula may undergo post-copulatory selection by females as a signal of male size and age. This should lead to positive allometry in baculum size. In addition to hyperallometry, sexually selected traits that undergo strong directional selection should exhibit high phenotypic variation. Nonetheless, in species in which pre-copulatory selection predominates over post-copulatory selection (such as those with male-biased sexual size dimorphism), baculum allometry may be isometric or exhibit negative allometry. We tested this hypothesis using data collected from two highly dimorphic species of the Mustelidae, the American marten (Martes americana) and the fisher (Martes pennanti). Allometric relationships were weak, with only 4.5–10.1% of the variation in baculum length explained by body length. Because of this weak relationship, there was a large discrepancy in slope estimates derived from ordinary least squares and reduced major axis regression models. We conclude that stabilizing selection rather than sexual selection is the evolutionary force shaping variation in baculum length because allometric slopes were less than one (using the ordinary least squares regression model), a very low proportion of variance in baculum length was explained by body length, and there was low phenotypic variability in baculum length relative to other traits. We hypothesize that this pattern occurs because post-copulatory selection plays a smaller role than pre-copulatory selection (manifested as male-biased sexual size dimorphism). We suggest a broader analysis of baculum allometry and sexual size dimorphism in the Mustelidae, and other taxonomic groups, coupled with a comparative analysis and with phylogenetic contrasts to test our hypothesis. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 104, 955–963.