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Keywords:

  • bite force;
  • body condition;
  • performance;
  • reproductive output;
  • reproductive role

Summary

  • 1
    Sexually dimorphic traits often reflect factors limiting the reproductive success of animals. Thus, most sexually dimorphic traits can be directly linked to the reproductive role of each sex. Sexual dimorphism in trophic structures (e.g. beak, jaws, teeth), however, often lacks a direct link to reproduction.
  • 2
    Trophic structures can be linked indirectly to reproductive allocation via energy acquisition. The reproductive role hypothesis (also known as the dimorphic niche hypothesis) posits such an indirect link, but has received heretofore little direct empirical support. We tested this hypothesis in a molluscivorous turtle exhibiting marked female-biased trophic morphology dimorphism.
  • 3
    Bite force analysis showed that females have stronger jaws than males and dietary analysis revealed that females ingest snails closer to their maximum biting capacity than males. Body condition of both sexes and reproductive output of females increased with relative head width, indicating that fitness is tightly linked to head size and bite force.
  • 4
    Our study provides strong evidence that reproductive role contributes to sexual dimorphism in trophic morphology. Our findings should apply to any animal in which energy intake is limited by trophic morphology.