David M. Linz | Armin P. Moczek


How novel traits integrate within ancient trait complexes without compromising ancestral functions is a foundational challenge in evo-devo. The insect head represents an ancient body region patterned by a deeply conserved developmental genetic network, yet at the same time constitutes a hot spot for morphological innovation. However, the mechanisms that facilitate the repeated emergence, integration, and diversification of morphological novelties within this body region are virtually unknown. Using horned Onthophagus beetles, we investigated the mechanisms that instruct the development of the dorsal adult head and the formation and integration of head horns, one of the most elaborate classes of secondary sexual weapons in the animal kingdom.