Genital variation in moths—evolutionary and systematic perspectives
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
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|Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB210), Linnanmaa, on May 20th, 2006, at 12 noon
Academy Professor Rauno Alatalo
Professor Sören Nylin
genital characteristics have peculiar morphological patterns. They show great divergence between species. At the same time, they are assumed to vary little within species by taxonomists who frequently use genital features to delimit species. I studied moth (Lepidoptera) genital size and shape variation within and between species. I also tested hypotheses proposed to explain rapid genital diversification among species. Studies were carried out using traditional distance measurement morphometrics and modern geometric morphometrics. Several moth species were analyzed.
d that genital structures show variation that in closely related species may show structural overlap. More surprisingly, the amount of variation in internal genitalia was equal to non-genital traits. These and some other findings are against the predictions of the lock-and-key hypothesis, which suggests that genital differences form a mechanical isolation system between species. Meanwhile, the findings are in good accordance with the various mechanisms of the sexual selection hypothesis. I found that external genital traits express varying amounts of variability. However, both external and internal genitalia consistently show small variation in size so that large individuals have disproportionately small genitalia and vice versa. This finding is consistent with the lock-and-key theory, but also with the cryptic female choice hypothesis. In conclusion, the results suggest that sexual selection plays a major role in genital diversification, but the exact mechanism remained unclear in this study. Some structures in moth genitalia strongly suggest that sexual conflict is present as well. It is possible that several mechanisms of sexual selection are in action simultaneously.
dings have implications to insect taxonomy. Genital characters, although often useful, should not be considered superior to other characters because they may vary considerably within species. I have shown that subjective visual evaluation of genital characteristics and a priori assumption of their low variability may easily lead to unsound taxonomic conclusions. Sophisticated morphometric tools are very useful and objective in delimiting sibling species. Geometric morphometrics is particularly useful since it helps to evaluate limits of variation. There are, however, no theoretical grounds to assume that genitalia are not subject to intraspecific geographic variation. Such variation was detected in this study as well. Geographic relationships should therefore be taken into consideration more frequently when delimiting populations into different species.
Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
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