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Patterns of sexual size dimorphism in Chelonia


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Macroevolutionary patterns of sexual size dimorphism (SSD) indicate how sexual selection, natural selection, and genetic and developmental constraints mold sex differences in body size. One putative pattern, known as Rensch's rule, posits that, among species with female-larger SSD, the relative degree of SSD declines with species' body size, whereas, among male-larger SSD species, relative SSD increases with size. Using a dataset of 196 chelonian species from all fourteen families, we investigated the correlation in body size evolution between male and female Chelonia and the validity of Rensch's rule for the taxon and within its major clades. We conclude that male–female correlations in body size evolution are high, although these correlations differ among chelonian families. Overall, SSD scales isometrically with body size; Rensch's rule is valid for only one family, Testudinidae (tortoises). Because macroevolutionary patterns of SSD can vary markedly among clades, even in a taxon as morphologically conservative as Testudines, one must guard against inappropriately pooling clades in comparative studies of SSD. The results of the present study also indicate that regression models that assume the x-variable (e.g. male body size) is measured without statistical error, although frequently reported, will result in erroneous conclusions about phylogenetic trends in sexual size dimorphism. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 108, 396–413.