Male fighting frequently results in the evolution of traits used as weapons. These are often coupled with correlated modifications in other somatic traits (hereafter referred to as supportive traits), which are thought to support the weapon functionally. No previous studies have investigated whether supportive traits themselves affect fighting success. We evaluated this possibility in two armed insects, the beetle Gnatocerus cornutus and the bug Riptortus pedestris. Using a principal components analysis, we identified a subset of supportive traits that were associated with weapons in both species. The patterns of supportive structures differed between the two species, probably reflecting differences in the use of weapons during fights. In both species, fighting success was higher in males with enhanced supportive traits. It appears that weapon-supportive structures develop as the result of selection that favours coordination among multiple traits associated with fighting behaviour. Thus, our results provide rare evidence of the benefit of a supportive trait that is a clear example of phenotypic integration.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.