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Sexual dimorphism of head morphology in three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus

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This study examined sexual dimorphism of head morphology in the ecologically diverse three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus. Male G. aculeatus had longer heads than female G. aculeatus in all 10 anadromous, stream and lake populations examined, and head length growth rates were significantly higher in males in half of the populations sampled, indicating that differences in head size increased with body size in many populations. Despite consistently larger heads in males, there was significant variation in size-adjusted head length among populations, suggesting that the relationship between head length and body length was flexible. Inter-population differences in head length were correlated between sexes, thus population-level factors influenced head length in both sexes despite the sexual dimorphism present. Head shape variation between lake and anadromous populations was greater than that between sexes. The common divergence in head shape between sexes across populations was about twice as important as the sexual dimorphism unique to each population. Finally, much of the sexual dimorphism in head length was due to divergence in the anterior region of the head, where the primary trophic structures were found. It is unclear whether the sexual dimorphism was due to natural selection for niche divergence between sexes or sexual selection. This study improves knowledge of the magnitude, growth rate divergence, inter-population variation and location of sexual dimorphism in G. aculeatus head morphology.
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Keywords: adaptive radiation; evolution; natural selection; sexual selection; trophic morphology

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 650 Life Sciences Bldg, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5245, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2010-09-01

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