The effect of sexual selection on species persistence remains unclear. The cost of bearing ornaments or armaments might increase extinction risk, but sexual selection can also enhance the spread of beneficial alleles and increase the removal of deleterious alleles, potentially reducing extinction risk. Here we investigate the effect of sexual selection on species persistence in a community of 34 species of dung beetles across a gradient of environmental disturbance ranging from old growth forest to oil palm plantation. Horns are sexually selected traits used in contests between males, and we find that both horn presence and relative size are strongly positively associated with species persistence and abundance in altered habitats. Testes mass, an indicator of post-copulatory selection, is, however, negatively linked with the abundance of species within the most disturbed habitats. This study represents the first evidence from a field system of a population-level benefit from pre-copulatory sexual selection.
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