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Comparative analyses of reproductive structures in harvestmen (opiliones) reveal multiple transitions from courtship to precopulatory antagonism.


ABSTRACT: Explaining the rapid, species-specific diversification of reproductive structures and behaviors is a long-standing goal of evolutionary biology, with recent research tending to attribute reproductive phenotypes to the evolutionary mechanisms of female mate choice or intersexual conflict. Progress in understanding these and other possible mechanisms depends, in part, on reconstructing the direction, frequency and relative timing of phenotypic evolution of male and female structures in species-rich clades. Here we examine evolution of reproductive structures in the leiobunine harvestmen or "daddy long-legs" of eastern North America, a monophyletic group that includes species in which males court females using nuptial gifts and other species that are equipped for apparent precopulatory antagonism (i.e., males with long, hardened penes and females with sclerotized pregenital barriers). We used parsimony- and Bayesian likelihood-based analyses to reconstruct character evolution in categorical reproductive traits and found that losses of ancestral gift-bearing penile sacs are strongly associated with gains of female pregenital barriers. In most cases, both events occur on the same internal branch of the phylogeny. These coevolutionary changes occurred at least four times, resulting in clade-specific designs in the penis and pregenital barrier. The discovery of convergent origins and/or enhancements of apparent precopulatory antagonism among closely related species offers an unusual opportunity to investigate how major changes in reproductive morphology have occurred. We propose new hypotheses that attribute these enhancements to changes in ecology or life history that reduce the duration of breeding seasons, an association that is consistent with female choice, sexual conflict, and/or an alternative evolutionary mechanism.

SUBMITTER: Burns MM 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3677920 | BioStudies | 2013-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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