The evolution of male genitalia: functional integration of genital sclerites in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus
It is now widely recognized that sexual selection has been important in the rapid and divergent evolution of male genital morphology. However, distinguishing among putative mechanisms of sexual selection acting on male genital morphology represents a considerable challenge. Although there is growing evidence that variation in the size and/or shape of male genital structures can determine a male's success in gaining fertilizations, our knowledge of the functional morphology of male genitalia remains limited. Here we examine the functional morphology of genital sclerites that are known to influence paternity in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus. We show that three of the sclerites form a functionally integrated unit that generates the tubular-shaped spermatophore and delivers its opening to the female's spermathecal duct. A fourth sclerite acts as a holdfast device during copulation. Our observations shed light on the mechanism by which these sclerites influence a male's paternity, and their patterns of phenotypic and genetic (co)variation. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 93, 257–266.