Data from: The hidden cost of sexually selected traits: the metabolic expense of maintaining a sexually selected weapon

  • Christine W. Miller (Contributor)
  • Woods H. Arthur Woods (Contributor)
  • Meghan E. Duell (Contributor)
  • Ummat Somjee (Contributor)



Sexually selected weapons are among the most exaggerated traits in nature. Theory frequently assumes a high cost of this exaggeration; yet, those costs are rarely measured. We know very little about the energetic resources required to maintain these traits at rest and the difference in energetic costs for the largest relative to the smallest individuals. Knowledge in this area is crucial; resting metabolic rate can account for 30-40% of daily energy expenditure in wild animals. Here, we capitalized on the phenomenon of autotomy to take a unique look at weapon maintenance costs. Using Leptoscelis tricolor (Hemiptera: Coreidae) we measured CO2 production rates before and after a weapon was shed. Males in this insect species use enlarged hind femora as weapons in male-male combat, and yet can shed them readily, without regeneration, upon entrapment. We found that metabolic rate decreased by an average of 23.5% in males after leg loss and by 7.9% in females. Notably, larger males had less of a drop in metabolic rate per gram of weapon lost. Our findings suggest sexually selected weapons contribute to a large portion of resting metabolic rate in males, but these costs do not scale in direct proportion to size; larger males can have larger weapons for a reduced metabolic cost. These energetic maintenance costs may be integral to the evolution of the allometries of sexually selected weapons, and yet they remain largely unexplored.,Somjee_MetabolicRate_legloss_dataMetabolic rates before and after leg loss for males and females in PDF format. Data are also available in CSV format. Please see README file for variable definitions.Metabolic costs of a weaponMetabolic rates before and after leg loss for males and females in CSV format. Data are also available in PDF format. Please see README file for variable definitions.LR_Nov11.csv,
Date made availableNov 21 2018

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