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A phylogenetic perspective on absence and presence of a sex-limited polymorphism

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image of Animal Biology

Sex-limited polymorphism is widely distributed among animal taxa, but has only rarely been studied from a macro-evolutionary perspective. We investigate the evolution of female-limited polymorphism by mapping presence or absence of multiple discrete morphs on published phylogenetic trees for North American representatives of two damselfly genera. The results indicate that female polymorphy represents the ancestral condition based on the species included with subsequent loss and monomorphy representing the evolutionary end-point in most cases. According to one phylogeny, character optimization suggests that expression of the polymorphism may be lost (to a state of monomorphy) and gained again (back to polymorphy). Earlier work indicated that changes from polymorphy to monomorphy might be coupled with evolution of the mating system from polyandry to monandry. The results presented here, however, do not convincingly support such view.

Affiliations: 1: Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerp, Belgium;, Email:; 2: Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, 25 Harbord Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3G5;, Email:


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