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Keywords:

  • Genitalia;
  • Gerridae;
  • one-size-fits-all hypothesis;
  • sexual selection;
  • static allometry

Male genital morphology in insects and arachnids is characterized by static hypoallometry and low intrapopulational levels of phenotypic variation relative to other male traits. The one-size-fits-all model of genital evolution attributes these patterns to stabilizing sexual selection. This model relies on the assumption that the observed patterns of variation and allometry reflect the form of sexual selection acting these traits. We test this by examining the patterns of scaling and trait variation for a set of genitalic and somatic morphological traits in male water striders (Aquarius remigis). This suite of traits is of particular interest because previous work has shown that the genitalic traits are under strong directional selection whereas the somatic traits are under either weak directional or stabilizing selection. Because the selection regime for these traits is known, we can, for the first time, test the purported relationship between trait variation, scaling, and the form of sexual selection. We show that the patterns of variation and scaling of these traits differ sharply from those predicted for traits experiencing strong directional sexual selection. Specifically, the male genital structures show static hypoallometry and low intrapopulational levels of phenotypic variation relative to other male traits, in spite of consistent, strong, directional sexual selection. These scaling relationships and levels of variation are typical of genital traits in other insect species, where they have been presumed to reflect stabilizing sexual selection. Our data clearly refute the assumption of the one-size-fits-all hypothesis that hypoallometric scaling of genitalic traits implies stabilizing selection. We discuss the implications of this finding and propose future directions for improving our current understanding of genital evolution in arthropods.