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Sexual dimorphism in the Arachnid orders.

McLean, Callum J and Garwood, Russell J and Brassey, Charlotte A (2018) Sexual dimorphism in the Arachnid orders. PeerJ, 6. ISSN 2167-8359


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Sexual differences in size and shape are common across the animal kingdom. The study of sexual dimorphism (SD) can provide insight into the sexual- and natural-selection pressures experienced by males and females in different species. Arachnids are diverse, comprising over 100,000 species, and exhibit some of the more extreme forms of SD in the animal kingdom, with the males and females of some species differing dramatically in body shape and/or size. Despite this, research on arachnid SD has primarily focused on specific clades as opposed to observing traits across arachnid orders, the smallest of which have received comparatively little attention. This review provides an overview of the research to date on the trends and potential evolutionary drivers for SD and sexual size dimorphism (SSD) in individual arachnid orders, and across arachnids as a whole. The most common trends across Arachnida are female-biased SSD in total body size, male-biased SSD in relative leg length and SD in pedipalp length and shape. However, the evolution of sexually dimorphic traits within the group is difficult to elucidate due to uncertainty in arachnid phylogenetic relationships. Based on the dataset we have gathered here, we highlight gaps in our current understanding and suggest areas for future research.

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