Evolution & development

Juvenile hormone mediates developmental integration between exaggerated traits and supportive traits in the horned flour beetle Gnatocerus cornutus.

PMID 22765207


Sexually selected exaggerated traits are often coupled with modifications in other nontarget traits. In insects with weapons, enlargements of nontarget characters that functionally support the weapon often occur (i.e. supportive traits). The support of sexual traits requires developmental coordination among functionally related multiple traits-an explicit example of morphological integration. The genetic theory predicts that developmental integration among different body modules, for which development is regulated via different sets of genes, is likely to be coordinated by pleiotropic factors. However, the developmental backgrounds of morphological integrations are largely unknown. We tested the hypothesis that the juvenile hormone (JH), as a pleiotropic factor, mediates the integration between exaggerated and supportive traits in an armed beetle Gnatocerus cornutus. During combat, males of this beetle use exaggerated mandibles to lift up their opponents with the supportive traits, that is, the head and prothoracic body parts. Application of methoprene, a JH analog (JHA), during the larval to prepupal period, induced the formation of large mandibles relative to the body sizes in males. Morphometric examination of nontarget traits elucidated an increase in the relative sizes of supportive traits, including the head and prothoracic body parts. In addition, reductions in the hind wing area and elytra length, which correspond to flight and reproductive abilities, were detected. Our findings are consistent with the genetic theory and support the idea that JH is a key pleiotropic factor that coordinates the developmental integration of exaggerated traits and supportive characters, as well as resource allocation trade-offs.

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Methoprene, PESTANAL®, analytical standard