Integrative and Comparative Biology | VOL. 62
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Testing Morphological Relationships between Female and Male Copulatory Structures in Bats

Publication Date Jun 6, 2022

Abstract

Synopsis The lower reproductive tract of female mammals has several competing functions including mating, tract health maintenance, and parturition. Diverse vaginal anatomy suggests interactions between natural and sexual selection, yet despite its importance, female copulatory morphology remains under-studied. We undertook a comparative study across the species-rich mammalian order Chiroptera (bats) with a focus on the suborder Yangochiroptera (Vespertilioniformes) to examine how female vaginal features may have coevolved with male penis morphology to minimize mechanical damage to their tissues during copulation. The penis morphology is diverse, presenting great potential for post-copulatory sexual selection and coevolution with the female morphology, but vaginas have not been carefully examined. Here we test the hypotheses that vaginal thickness and collagen density have coevolved with features of the male penis, including the presence of spines and a baculum. We present histological data from females of 24 species from 7 families of bats, and corresponding data on male penis anatomy. We also examine the role of phylogenetic history in the morphological patterns we observe. We found evidence that female vaginal thickness has coevolved with the presence of penile spines, but not with baculum presence or width. Collagen density did not appear to covary with male penile features. Our findings highlight the importance of considering interactions between the sexes in influencing functional reproductive structures...

Concepts

Male Penis Male Copulatory Structures Collagen Density Families Of Bats Vaginal Thickness Penis Morphology Sexual Selection Morphological Patterns Male Morphology Natural Selection

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