A Horn for an Eye

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Science  23 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5508, pp. 1505-1506
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5508.1505

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The extravagant horns of male dung beetles are extremely diverse, varying in size, shape, and location on the head and thorax. This diversity has been attributed to sexual selection: The bigger the horns, the better able is the male beetle to fend off competing males and to win a mate. However, sexual selection is less able to explain the different locations on the body of the beetle horns. In a Perspective, Harvey and Godfray discuss new findings (Emlen) showing that there is a cost associated with such elaborate structures--nearby organs are much smaller--so that different beetle species evolved horns at locations close to the organs that they needed the least.