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Dancing drives evolution of sexual size dimorphism in manakins


Shogren, Elsie H. et al. (2022), Dancing drives evolution of sexual size dimorphism in manakins, Dryad, Dataset,


Body size mediates life history, physiology, and inter- and intra-specific interactions. Within species, sexes frequently differ in size, reflecting divergent selective pressures and/or constraints. Both sexual selection and differences in environmentally-mediated reproductive constraints can drive sexual size dimorphism, but empirically testing causes of dimorphism is challenging. Manakins (Pipridae), a family of Neotropical birds comprising ~50 species, exhibit both male- and female-biased size dimorphism and are distributed across gradients of precipitation and elevation. Males perform courtship displays ranging from simple hops to complex aerobatic manoeuvres. We tested associations between sexual size dimorphism and (a) agility and (b) environment, analysing morphological, behavioural, and environmental data for 22 manakin species in a phylogenetic framework. Sexual dimorphism in mass was most strongly related to agility, with males being lighter than females in species performing more aerial display behaviours. However, wing and tarsus length dimorphism were more strongly associated with environmental variables, suggesting that different sources of selection act on different aspects of body size. These results highlight both the strength of sexual selection in shaping morphology—even atypical patterns of dimorphism—while demonstrating the importance of constraints and ecological consequences of body size evolution.