Ornament complexity is correlated with sexual selection: a comment on Raia et al

From The animans and man; an elementary textbook of zoology and human physiology (1911).


Raia et al. propose that the evolution of the shape and complexity of animal ornaments (e.g., deer antlers) can be explained by interspecific variation in body size and is not influenced by sexual selection. They claim to show that ornament complexity is related to body size by an 0.25-power law and argue that this finding precludes a role for sexual selection in the evolution of ornament complexity. However, their study does not test alternative hypotheses and mismeasures antler shape allometry by omitting much of the published data. We show that an index of sexual selection (sexual size dimorphism) is positively correlated with size-corrected antler complexity and that the allometric slope of complexity is substantially greater than 0.25, contra Raia et al. We conclude that sexual selection and physical constraints both affect the evolution of antler shape.

American Naturalist