Freshwater turtle courtship is an exciting and potentially phylogenetically important field of study. Scattered data exist from the past century of research, yet no recent summary is available. Courtship in freshwater turtles includes a number of common behaviors, which usually involve visual, tactile, olfactory, and auditory signals. These signals function in both species and sex recognition and in the seduction of potential mates. Specific behavioral sequences are required to facilitate successful copulation, and these behaviors presumably play a role in mate choice. We performed a series of meta-analyses to investigate the evolution of courtship behavior in freshwater turtles. Biting, an aggressive form of courtship behavior, is plesiomorphic, conserved only in the Chelydridae, Kinosternidae, subfamily Emydinae and South American species in the Pleurodira. Head movement and foreclaw display are apparently apomorphic and evolved independently in the Geoemydinae, Deirochelyinae, and Australian species of the Pleurodira. Display type (pre- or postmounting display) and sexual size dimorphism also show phylogenetic patterns. Therefore, the evolution of courtship behavior in freshwater turtles might accompany the evolution of sexual dimorphism, which is directly subject to natural selection.
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Vol. 12 • No. 1