Conventional wisdom holds that the complex shapes of deer antlers are produced under the sole influence of sexual selection. We questioned this view by demonstrating that trends for increased body size evolution passively yield more-complex ornaments, even in organisms where no effect of sexual selection is possible, with similar allometric slopes. Recent investigations suggest that sexual selection on antlers of larger deer species is stronger than that in smaller species; hence, the use of conspicuous antlers for display in large male deer is a secondary function driven by especially intense sexual selection on these large-bodied species. Since ancestral deer were small and had very simple antlers, such an intense selection on antlers shape was probably absent in early deer. Therefore, the evolution of complex ornaments is coupled with body size evolution, even in deer.
- Sexual selection