Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica),   Aug. 2013, 59(4): 564 - 568
Title: Why are sexually selected weapons almost absent in females?
Authors: Anders BERGLUND
 D e p a r t m e n t   o f   E c o l o g y   a n d   G e n e t i c s / A n i m a l   E c o l o g y ,   U p p s a l a   U n i v e r s i t y ,   S w e d e n 

In sex role reversed species, predominantly females evolve sexually selected traits, such as ornaments and/or weapons. Female ornaments are common and their function well documented in many species, whether sex role reversed or not. However, sexually selected female weapons seem totally absent except for small wing spurs in three jacana species, present in both males and females. This poor female weaponry is in sharp contrast to the situation in species with conventional sex roles: males commonly have evolved sexually selected weapons as well as ornaments. At the same time, females in many taxa have naturally selected weapons, used in competition over resources or in predator defence. Why are sexually selected weapons then so rare, almost absent, in females? Here I briefly review weaponry in females and the function of these weapons, conclude that the near absence of sexually selected weapons begs an explanation, and suggest that costs of sexually selected weapons may exceed costs of ornaments. Females are more constrained when evolving sexually selected traits compared to males, at least compared to those males that do not provide direct benefits, as trait costs reduce a female’s fecundity. I suggest that this constraining trade-off between trait and fecundity restricts females to evolve ornaments but rarely weapons. The same may apply to paternally investing males. Whether sexually selected weapons actually are more costly than sexually selected ornaments remains to be investigated  [Current Zoology 59 (4): 564568, 2013].

Keywords: Sexual selection, Female weapons, Female ornaments, Sex role reversal

*Correspondence should be addressed to Anders BERGLUND (

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