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Combat traits are thought to have arisen due to intense male-male competition for access to females. While large and elaborate weapons used in attacking other males have often been the focus of sexual selection studies, defensive traits (both morphological and performance) have received less attention. However, if defensive traits help males restrict access to females, their role in the process of sexual selection could also be important. Here we examine the morphological correlates of grip strength, a defensive combat trait involved in mate guarding, in the tenebrionid beetle Bolitotherus cornutus. We found that grip strength was repeatable and differed between the sexes. However, these differences in performance were largely explained by body size and a non-additive interaction between size and leg length that differed between males and females. Our results suggest that leg size and body size interact as part of an integrated suite of defensive combat traits.


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