Inbreeding depression in a sexually selected weapon and the homologue in females

J Evol Biol. 2024 Jan 29;37(1):28-36. doi: 10.1093/jeb/voad011.


Theory predicts that traits with heightened condition dependence, such as sexually selected traits, should be affected by inbreeding to a greater degree than other traits. The presence of environmental stress may compound the negative consequences of inbreeding depression. In this study, we examined inbreeding depression across multiple traits and whether it increased with a known form of environmental stress. We conducted our experiment using both sexes of the sexually dimorphic leaf-footed cactus bug, Narnia femorata (Hemiptera: Coreidae). Adult male cactus bugs have enlarged hind legs used as weapons in male-male contests; these traits, and their homologue in females, have been previously found to exhibit high condition dependence. In this study, we employed a small developmental group size as an environmental stress challenge. Nymph N. femorata aggregate throughout their juvenile stages, and previous work has shown the negative effects of small group size on survivorship and body size. We found evidence of inbreeding depression for survival and seven of the eight morphological traits measured in both sexes. Inbreeding depression was higher for the size of the male weapon and the female homolog. Additionally, small developmental group size negatively affected survival to adulthood. However, small group size did not magnify the effects of inbreeding on morphological traits. These findings support the hypothesis that traits with heightened condition dependence exhibit higher levels of inbreeding depression.

Keywords: Coreidae; animal weapons; genetic stress; heightened condition dependence; juvenile density.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size
  • Female
  • Heteroptera* / anatomy & histology
  • Inbreeding
  • Inbreeding Depression*
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal